by F.J. Davey
Summary: Looking for a change in music, direction and image, a band hires an agency to help with the makeover. What will happen when the agency’s owner, Kathryn, meets the headstrong and charismatic lead singer, Storm?
The song reached a crescendo, the drummer stood, legs apart, his sticks a blur. The lead guitarist’s head was thrown back. The singer’s voice screamed out the last note, the sweat on her face spraying across the writhing mass of humanity, known as the mosh pit. The crowd whistled, screamed and shouted. The singer yelled at the sea of faces, visually staccato in the strobe lights.
“That’s it suckers. See you the next fuckin’ time!” The voices yelled their pleasure, as the four jumped from the stage, fingers raised in crude signs.
The band members entered the change rooms, sweat dripping from their faces onto already-soaked clothing.
“They loved us. Man, they loved us!” Storm’s adrenalins were really pumping. She punched the drummer on the arm, “You were great, Cloud. You were really flying out there tonight. I don’t think I could’ve bettered that myself!” The drummer grinned at his sister, knowing that the compliment, though backhanded, was genuine.
“Hey! You guys really stirred them up out there for us. I liked that last song, man. Own composition?” The singer from ‘Desecration’, the top-line band for the night, drawled the question, looking at the four of them through lack-lustre eyes.
“Yeah. Storm wrote it.” Cloud replied with a nod in the direction of their own lead vocalist. The singer’s expression showed a hint of surprise as he turned to look at Storm. His interest quickened as he took in the buttoned linen shirt, open to the waist, showing the cleavage of ample breasts. The sweat had contrived to make the shirt almost see-through and the singer’s eyes were riveted to the dark outline of erect nipples.
“What’re you doing after the gig, sweetheart? Want to be shown a real good time?” Storm’s eyes drifted down from the singer’s face, past the narrow shoulders and flat stomach coming to rest on the slight bulge to one side of his fly. Her eyes still on the stirring mound, she took a step towards the singer.
“That sounds like a good idea, lover-boy. That is, if that thing ever get angry!” her finger pointed to the swelling in the singer’s pants.
“Hey! Hang on just a minute Storm. Tonight’s mine, remember?” Kenny’s face looked thunderous.
“Oh yeah. That’s cool Kenny. I forgot. Sorry pal.” she turned back to the singer, “Tonight’s off! Maybe some other time.” Her hand brushed his groin as she turned towards Kenny. “Sorry, Kenny. You won’t be disappointed, honey.”
‘Desecration’ got their cue to go on stage and left the change room to the relief of both Storm and Kenny.
“Thanks, pal. Yet again, I owe you!” Storm brushed a kiss on Kenny’s cheek. She looked at his worried face, “What’s the matter, Kenny? It’s not that idiot is it?”
“No, of course not, Storm. Those baboons don’t worry me.” He looked around at the other three. “That was pretty gross tonight. Did you hear those young kids shouting out? Things like ‘Kill all Kykes!’ ‘Gas them all!’ and all the rest. I hate it, guys. I hate stirring them up to hatred and violence.”
Storm put a hand on Kenny’s arm, soothing him.
“C’mon, Kenny. It’s not just us. They’ve got all that hatred inside them already. Maybe it helps to release it in this way.”
“No! It can’t help them. Seeing Jim in his stormtroopers uniform just makes them think we sympathise with them. I don’t like it! I don’t like being called ‘Stormtroopers’ either!”
“Hey, hang on a minute, you agreed to the name as well!” Storm was beginning to lose her temper.
The sounds of a commotion, which had been filtering in from the dance floor, got more pronounced. Sounds that didn’t seem quite right. The screaming was different and the shouting sounded part threatening and part frightened. The shrieking of sirens joined the discord. The four Stormtroopers looked at each other. Jim was the first to break the silence.
“Well,” he drawled “it doesn’t appear to be a fire. I guess we’ll hear soon enough what it’s all about. Button it, you two. Argue about it tomorrow. I’m knackered. I’m out of here. See y’all tomorrow.”
Before Jim could leave, one of the bouncers came into the change room and told them there’d been a bit of a rumpus out on the floor.
“A Jewboy got sliced. Someone managed to get a blade in here. Police have collared the dickhead what done it. Serve the bastard right. Got us all in the shit. Ambulance has picked up the Jewboy.”
“How bad was he hurt?” Kenny wanted to know.
“Fucked if I know. Shitloads of blood everywhere but. Don’t think he’ll kark it; screaming his head off, he was. I don’t suppose you guys’d worry if there’s one kyke less, eh!”
Kenny’s face was pale. He threw a glance in Storm’s direction before turning to the others.
“I want a meeting in the next day or so. This can’t go on. I’ll come with you Jim, I don’t feel like partying.” He turned away, grabbed his jacket and, head lowered, he left the room.
Storm was last to arrive at Kenny’s house and immediately got the feeling that discussions had already been under way and decisions made.
“Hi, guys. What’ve you all decided then? Am I allowed to know?” Sarcasm dripped from her. Cloud tried to pacify her, “C’mon sis, you know we wouldn’t decide anything without you. Just listen for a moment about my thoughts on this. Come on Storm. Just for me, hey?” Storm smiled, to acknowledge the cajolery in his tone. She grabbed a coke and sat on a vacant stool, shoulders set. Cloud ruffled her hair.
“I think our name is inflammatory. I’d like to change it.” He took a deep breath. “And, while we’re at it, I’d like us to change our image, our music, our direction our ….” He saw the darkening look on his sister’s face and pre-empted her protests. “I know we tried other music once and it didn’t work: but we were younger then, not as good musically. I know we’ve been pretty successful as we are now.” Storm couldn’t help but interject, “Too bloody right we’ve been successful. We’ve done two ‘Big Day Out’ gigs. Only the best local talent gets that invite!”
“I know, I know! But that’s only one section, only the young kids. I think we should aim more at an older age. You know we can play the music. For God’s sake, half of our rehearsal time goes into playing the old sixties songs, or some of your other compositions. Come on, Storm. Just think about it. Now is the time to change. Soon it’ll be too late.”
Storm’s chin was thrust out. She wasn’t convinced.
“It’s too late now, Cloud. We’re established. They like us as we are. If we change, we’ll lose the ones that like us and we’ll have to start right from the beginning with all the others. How can we change our image? Fuckin’ impossible!”
“No; it’s not, Storm.” Kenny’s tone was quiet in comparison to Storm’s rising voice. “There is a way, kiddo. There’s this agency. They’re called ‘Self-Image’. They specialise in changing a person’s image.” Storm snorted, unimpressed.
“It’s a bloody sight easier to change a person’s image than a rock band’s image. Come on, Kenny, have they ever worked with a rock band?”
Kenny chose his words with care. He knew Storm well, so he knew her tendency to argue for the sake of it. He wanted to diffuse the animosity.
“Storm, let’s just talk this over huh? We can all have our say. How about if we just get someone from the agency to talk to us. You know Aaron Styles and his mates?” At Storm’s nod, he continued. “You know their aim is to get to the Olympics? Well, the Sports Institute has got this firm in to advise on the image needed for very visible athletes. In fact, Aaron was telling me that the boss of this agency has just taken on the job as their manager. It’s a bit of a trial, as she hasn’t done that sort of thing before but they’re willing to take a chance. That’s all I’m asking for – just give them a chance.”
Storm looked at Kenny, then at Cloud and finally at Jim.
“I suppose you’ve already decided on this, have you? Even you, Jim? After all, you were the one who thought of the idea of wearing the uniform.” Jim grinned; delighting, as always, in disagreeing with her.
“I think it’s a great idea, sweetheart.” Storm flinched at the inflammatory, sexist term but refrained from being drawn into the normal argument.
“So; I presume we’re going to vote on it?” The nods confirmed her flat comment. “OK, all in favour.” Jim’s hand shot up. Kenny lifted a finger and Cloud smiled compassionately at the stormy face of his sister and nodded his head.
“Sorry, love but I think it’s necessary.”
“All those against?” Storm put her hand up high. “I think the whole thing stinks and we’re going to lose everything. You’ve won the vote, so I’ll give it a go. We have another vote though, after we’ve talked to this agency thing. Right?” They agreed and Kenny said he’d organise the meeting with someone from the agency.
Storm waited for Cloud and Jim to go and then settled down on the old armchair, glaring into space. Her wintry eyes turned towards Kenny.
“Do you really think this thing has a chance? I think we’re just going to lose everything!” Kenny went over to her and sat on the arm of the chair. He stroked her short hair, knowing how much she needed approbation and love. She always needed people to like her and, if they showed that they didn’t, she could be outrageous. Her attitude of ‘take me as I am – or stuff you’ was pronounced and had gained her many enemies.
Kenny knew that Storm’s childhood had had very little love in it and had been the sole cause of her current attitude. Cloud had been her only avenue to compassion and love within her family. Never having the chance to know her father well, Storm was constantly rejected by her pleasure loving mother. When Storm had tried to be a good child, an obedient daughter, her mother had sneered at her and called her ‘Miss Goody-Goody’. When she’d tried to please her mother, she’d been pushed aside for whichever man was on the scene at the time.
Storm had learned that only outrageous behaviour on her part would win any sort of approval from her mother. She’d cultivated a rebellious attitude and, though it disgusted her at times, she’d been gratified by a smile, occasionally, from her mother. A product of the sixties, her mother had always felt that the world, as well as her ex-husband, owed her a living. She clung to the hippy-type lifestyle of her youth and was generally in a smoke-filled haze with an occasional foray into other designer drugs.
Kenny had met Storm when she was thirteen and they’d gravitated to one another. Their love of music bonded them and Storm spent hours on end teaching Kenny the old sixties hits. These songs had been the most important things in her life. They’d been her lifeline. She’d spent hours and hours tucked away in her own room, letting the beat of the tunes drown out her mother’s drunken activities.
Kenny bent down to kiss Storm’s brow, soothing, calming.
“Give it a try, love. I really think we can do it.” Storm pulled a face but nodded slowly. A glint of mischief came into her eyes as she started humming a tune. Kenny listened awhile then laughed.
“The King’s ‘Devil in disguise’ no less. I’m honoured.” He thought for a while, “OK then;” and he started humming, before singing softly,
“You’re just a devil woman
with evil on her mind
beware the devil woman
she’s gonna get you – get you – get you.”
“And don’t you forget it!” Storm was determined to have the last word.
Storm refused to struggle and break away from the unwanted caresses. She whispered through gritted teeth at the man, whose arms circled her, smothering her. ‘If you don’t get your hands off me this bloody minute, you’re gonna be swallowing your testicles any time now!’
“But you said …..”
“I don’t give a fuck what I said. I’m not in the mood now.”
They glared at each other, his arms still around her.
“Excuse me” a glacial voice from behind them, “I would like to use the lift”. Storm turned her icy stare from the man and found herself face to face with a woman dressed in business clothes. In the small confines of the car park lift lobby, the woman made it clear that she expected the couple to part to allow her to call for a lift.
In sheer perversity at the woman’s disapproving expression, Storm wound her arms around the man’s neck, pulling his face down to her own.
“Thank you for a wonderful night, er… Brent. I’ll see myself up from here.” Ignoring the bemused look on the man’s face she turned her back to him, punching the ‘up’ button.
The woman entered the lift behind her, the stiff, straight spine indicating her pique at Storm’s lack of manners. Storm, aggravated by the woman’s silent criticism, stretched her arms high above her head, showing an expanse of bare midriff.
“Nothing like a good man to get the day off to a great start. What d’ya reckon?” The woman didn’t look impressed with the performance.
“Really?” was said in a dry tone, the deep voice frosty cool. “Which floor?” She pressed five for herself and then four in response to Storm’s answer. Storm looked sideways at the woman’s profile. ‘A real cold-arse here. Stiff as a poker. Pity I haven’t got time to stir up her coals some more!’
The lift doors slid open to reveal a hallway with lush, red carpet, paintings adorning the walls and a basket of flowers on a stand opposite the lift door, welcoming visitors. Forgetting her erstwhile lift companion, Storm stepped out and looked around with pleasure, her senses touched by the decor. She breathed in the scent of fresh flowers and vowed that, some day, she would have an office, or a floor, in a building such as this.
She made her way to the door which announced that ‘Self Image’ was within. She pushed open the heavy door to find a reception area, with the impeccably dressed, smiling receptionist ready to welcome her and lead her into a large, well-furnished room where the rest of the band waited for her. She sat on the arm of the ‘old gold’ leather armchair that Kenny was relaxing in. She remembered the man she had just left.
“Bloody man kept pawing me.” she complained to Kenny, he laughed, “Shit, Storm! You do have to expect that sometimes, the way you lead them on.” She screwed up her face, with distaste.
“Why can’t they all be like you, my love?” she lamented, as she slid down onto his knee. She wound her arms around his neck and nuzzled her nose into his long black hair, breathing in the scent of his cologne, feeling safe and secure.
The door opened and Storm took in the calf length skirt and tailored jacket before her glance slid up to the slightly familiar face. She puzzled for a while until the green eyes met her own and she recognised the woman in the lift. The slight widening of those clear eyes was the only sign of recognition shown, as the woman crossed the room in a smooth motion.
“Good morning. I apologise for being a little late. I hope you’ve made yourselves comfortable.” Not even a flicker in the direction of the couple lounging on the plush chair. “My name is Kathryn Lansdown and it will be my pleasure to see if we can work together towards the goal that you’ve set yourselves.” A slight smile as her glance encompassed the four visitors. Cloud stood and made the appropriate introductions.
“Before we start; who would like a coffee?” Amid a chorus of ‘Yes, please’ and ‘That’d be great’ Storm’s voice was clear, with a hint of belligerence, “A cup of tea’d be better.” Kathryn acknowledged this with a nod and, going behind the large solid desk, pressed the intercom switch.
“Miranda; would you be able to bring us three coffees and…” she paused, her eyes on Storm, “two teas please. Thank you.” somewhat deflating Storm’s contrariness by her own choice of drink.
The hot drinks duly arrived and Kathryn poured, adding the cream and sugar as requested. A slightly uncomfortable Kenny gave Storm a slight push.
“Up you get love. Let me drink my coffee.” Storm stood up and collected her tea from the embossed, silver tray before wandering over to savour the view of the city from the full length windows. The building being situated on the heights of West Perth, the view was magnificent, taking in the blue expanse of the Swan River, surrounding what was generally referred to as the ‘Pretty City’. She turned and glanced back around the spacious office, noting that the décors and furnishings gave no hint as to the character of the current occupant.
“All right.” Kathryn started the business side of the meeting. “Let’s see if I have the facts right. You are interested in changing your image to reach a wider audience than you have at present. You also want to change your name from the possibly inflammable ‘Stormtroopers’.” Cloud answered as designated spokesperson. He explained that they wanted to move away from the heavy rock and alternative sound, into more commercial music.
They discussed the aims of the band in general, with Kenny and Jim interjecting with their views. Kathryn listened thoughtfully and watched the three male members of the band as they talked. Storm was ranging about the room, sometimes wandering behind Kathryn’s chair. She was noticeably quiet, not having any input in the other band members’ dreams.
“Is this the view and the goal of all of you?” Kathryn needed to know. Cloud looked at Storm before answering, “It’s the majority decision of the band to listen to your suggestions before committing ourselves fully.” Kathryn was pensive, her face giving nothing away.
“You know my company hasn’t tackled this particular task before. I must admit that it is only my own interest in music that has tempted me to try such an undertaking. Before I commit to anything I feel I need to see, or rather hear, you perform. I do admit to not having heard of your band, or heard you play.”
As Kathryn was talking, Storm had moved slightly closer from behind. She started humming and then softly singing the words of a song.
‘Thought you were a clever girl
giving up the social whirl
you can’t come back
be the first in line’
Kathryn ignored the voice, “I’d like to come, to listen to you rehearse if possible: try to get a feel of your musical abilities.”
‘You’re obsolete my baby
my poor old-fashioned baby
I said baby, baby, baby
you’re out of time’
Kathryn turned her chair round so she could face Storm.
“Could we leave Chris Farlowe to another time do you think?” she smiled as she saw the surprise on Storm’s face at her knowledge of the artist’s name. She tried to bridge the gap that Storm’s animosity had created, “Tell me: Are they your real names – Cloud and Storm?”
“Sure are. Our mother was a bit ….”
“Too right they are. Do you have a problem with that?” Storm interrupted her brother’s explanation.
“No, not at all.” Kathryn turned back to the men. “I was just wondering, as the names are authentic, whether you’d considered ‘Stormclouds’ as a name? You probably have, of course.” She saw Cloud’s head tip to one side as he considered the name.
“Actually, we didn’t think of any other name. Stormtroopers was the first suggestion and it sounded good, so we went with it.” He turned to Jim and Kenny. “What do you guys reckon? You know Storm and I don’t want to push ourselves forward.”
Kenny said he thought it was a great name. Jim said it sounded fine to him. They all looked at Storm, who had originally suggested ‘Stormtroopers’. Her face was closed as she shrugged and turned to Kathryn.
“We’ll discuss it, as well as other names, when we’re alone. Along with your other suggestions of course. By the way,” she smiled sweetly at Kathryn, “what makes you think you can make any sort of judgement of our music? It’s not likely that our music will correspond to the music that you’d probably like.” Kathryn turned her chair once more to fully face Storm.
“I think my general knowledge of music will be able to recognise ability and talent of any genre.” Kathryn’s voice was cool. It warmed as she turned back to the men. “Would you allow me to attend…
‘You’re obsolete my baby
my poor old-fashioned baby’
‘I said baby, baby, baby
you’re out of time’
in the near future? Then we can continue our talks.”
They made arrangements to meet two days hence at the rehearsal studio and the band prepared to take their leave.
“I look forward to seeing you all again, then.” Kathryn’s practised smile encompassed them all.
As Kathryn closed the door on her prospective clients her expression changed to one of thoughtfulness as she pondered the challenge. She wondered if she would be able to deal with Storm’s obvious animosity. She knew very well, from personal experience, that for anyone to change, they really had to want to. The true secret was seeing the exact way one must adapt, having a clear goal in mind and planning the changes methodically. She thought again about Storm and her lip curled slightly. Storm was just the type of frivolous, thoughtless woman that she despised. Spend the night with one man, then be all over her regular boyfriend. If she were to be at all successful at changing their image, then changing Storm’s off stage behaviour would be the most essential and the most difficult.
Kathryn’s own gut feeling was that she shouldn’t take the job. In a way Storm was right, her appreciation of alternate, hard rock was much less than her love of current, popular music, classical music and, her favourite, the old sixties music. She thought she would be able to show an objectivity but had the feeling that their talent would not stretch to changing styles. She hesitated to write them off completely though, the memory of the tuneful, slightly husky, voice was still with her. ‘Fancy a young girl like that knowing Chris Farlowe’s ‘Out of Time’: never mind bringing it to mind so cleverly at so apt a moment, however rude and bad-mannered.’
Kathryn mentally shrugged before her thoughts left the band and switched to her next appointment with Jonathon Reece, the owner of a small chain of hotels. She massaged her neck, relaxing the tight muscles; wondering, with anticipation, what Jon’s visit would be about. Jonathon was a good friend and had, in the past, been a great help in building up her business; especially in its infancy and developing years. After having dealings with him when she was booking seminars at the hotel he was working for, he had approached her agency three years ago with an unusual proposal. He had asked for her, personally, to act as consultant for the small hotel that he was building in Perth. He wanted her to develop the image of the hotel before it was even built; to set the right tone.
Her company had been growing in the three years that had preceded that offer. It had evolved from a one person agency, specialising in lecturing and giving seminars on image changing in the business world; to a small business with a staff of five. She had already started to expand into the more high-priced individual image making when Jonathon had approached her with his ambitious proposal.
She had looked on Jonathon’s proposition as a huge challenge and, after finalising some of her own personal clients, had left her staff to run the day to day aspects of the agency, while she had thrown herself into the six month consultancy contract.
It was now history that the Crown hotel had become a resounding success and Kathryn’s influence on furnishings, room amenities and even entertainment in the small night-club was substantial. She had been able to use all her past experience of hotel management in Melbourne, six years prior to Jonathon’s request. Kathryn’s reputation had flourished as a direct result of the success of the Crown hotel.
Kathryn rang through to her secretary.
“Oh, Miranda. When Mr. Reece arrives, could you ask him to come straight in. Also could you put a note in my diary for 4 p.m. on Thursday.” Her thoughts briefly returned to Storm McInnes’s well-named, stormy face. “Just jot down ‘Stormclouds – Beaufort St. Mt. Lawley’. Thank you, Miranda.”
While Kathryn looked forward to his arrival, she remembered how, early on in the previous year, she had waited with just such pleased anticipation for Jonathon’s appointment time. The reason for that visit had surprised and excited her. Jonathon had wanted her to go to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe for a three month consultancy contract to oversee the fitting out of his second hotel which had just been built. He had wanted her to emulate her work at the Perth Crown hotel, keeping in mind the local flavour and ambience. At 35 years of age and being, by choice, single and emotionally unattached, Kathryn had agreed to Jonathon’s suggestion; and hadn’t regretted the decision for one minute.
Her three months in Harare had been idyllic and, with the help of the hotel manager, David Torrance, she had made Harare’s Crown Hotel as big a success as the Perth hotel. Her mouth curled into a smile as she thought about David and how close they’d become, confiding in him as she had with nobody else. They had seemed to connect with each other and she had loved to go out dancing with him in the warm Zimbabwean evenings. They had both been sad when it had been time for her to return to Perth.
Kathryn knew that she would have to refuse any similar commission, if that was Jonathon’s intent. She preferred to stay in Perth with as small a work-load as possible at present. Kathryn had some tentative plans and these had recently been growing in her mind. She had been contemplating finally putting pen to paper and trying to write a follow-up to her first moderately successful book, ‘How not to lose a business!’. The proceeds of this first book had set her up in business when she’d arrived in Perth in 1993, soon after her 30th birthday. It was slightly ironic that, at the time of writing this first-up book, she had been recovering from having lost a three year old business. She had also been learning how to be alone again after the simultaneous ending of a three year relationship. She was now toying with the idea of another book; this time on the back of a very successful business venture.
The opening of the door interrupted her reverie and she smiled in greeting as she stood and moved from behind her desk to greet Jonathon. Her hands were outstretched in welcome and Jonathon enveloped them with his own big, warm hands.
“Jon, it’s so nice to see you. You’re looking very well.” Jon’s smile lit his large, handsome face as he bent his head to kiss Kathryn’s cheek.
“You, my love, are as beautiful as usual. Marry me!” Kathryn laughed at the standing joke, knowing that Jon and Jenny were blissfully happy in this, their second year of married life.
“You know very well how lucky you are that I refused your so-kind offer three years ago. How is Jen? I haven’t spoken to her in weeks. You’ll have to come over to dinner.” Jonathon’s smile turned into a leer. “Both of you, I mean!” she admonished with a grin.
They settled into the comfortable armchairs, sipping the coffee that Miranda had brought in, unasked. They caught up with news of mutual friends, sharing some minor gossip, until Jonathon put down his coffee cup with purpose.
“And so to business, my love. Have you heard from David lately?”
“I got a quick scrawl a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t answered it yet, I’m afraid. Why? Is there a problem?” Kathryn was concerned.
“No, no problem. He’s been having a little trouble booking overseas acts for the ‘Coronet’ bar, that’s all. Most of the acts are too expensive for his budget and, while the local acts are superb as you know, the international flavour of the hotel demands international acts. His suggestion to me was that we ask you to come on board again, as our Australian agent, for acquiring performers from both here and the Eastern States. With your previous experience of booking entertainers, both when you were in Melbourne and when we were setting up the Crown here, he was hoping that you’d still have some contacts. Needless to say, I’m completely in agreement with him. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself. What do you think?”
Kathryn had listened with keen interest at Jon’s proposal, even as her mind filed and sorted all her possible contacts. She was tempted by the offer. The music industry was a field that had always fascinated her and, during the times that she had touched the periphery of it, she had sensed and been drawn to the excitement.
“I can’t deny it’s tempting, Jon. However, I have almost made the decision to take time off to write the book you’ve all been nagging me about. I was going to keep on with a couple of special little projects, like the handling of the West Australian athletes in line for the Olympics; but they will only take a few hours a week. I could keep my ears open and approach some of the local agents that I still see occasionally but I don’t think I could take it on officially, my love.” Her tone was apologetic, as she was genuinely sorry to have to say ‘no’. “Is there any particular time that he’s short of an act?” Jon looked at the notebook he’d brought along.
“It seems like the main problem is a three week slot next month. The nineteenth of October through to the tenth of November.” He looked at his watch, ‘It’s the tenth of September today, that’s – what? five weeks on Saturday.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what: I’ll undertake to get you an act for those three weeks; but after that, I’m afraid you’re on your own. Sound fair?”
“More than fair, Kath. As always. OK, so what’s the book about then?” Business finished, Jon was curious.
“I’m not quite sure.” Kathryn laughed. “I know it’s about the changing of an image but I’m not quite sure of the direction it will take yet. I’m looking for a specific; but I haven’t quite got what I want yet. I intend to go back over my old files and look for something unique. That’s why I need the free time. Background and research for these kind of books take the most time. If I could meet someone special now and be able to take specific notes it would be much easier. I was contemplating the athletes, wondering if I could work with that but it’s not quite right.” Her frown of concentration cleared, the slight creases in her forehead smoothed away. ‘Don’t get me started, Jon. I’d go on for ever!”
They talked a little more before Jon rose, stretching his long legs, towering over Kathryn.
“Thanks for listening to our proposal anyway, Kath. Jen and I will see you soon, hopefully.” He bent over to kiss Kathryn’s cheek, aware of the faint scent of expensive perfume. Always perfectly coifed, make-up expertly applied, Kathryn exuded class and good taste. He wondered, for the thousandth time, how she would look flushed and dishevelled from lovemaking. Someone, someday was sure to see. He hoped, for her sake, that it wouldn’t be long. He wanted to see her as happy as he was with his Jen. He had thought for a while that David and her would make a go of it, as their closeness had been evident but they had remained friends only.
Kathryn saw the searching look that Jon gave her, knowing instinctively the direction of his thoughts.
“Oh, get on with you, Jon! I’m quite happy as I am. Now, off you go; I have a luncheon appointment.” She laughed at Jon’s raised eyebrows. “He’s nineteen and pimply.” she saw Jonathon to the door. “He sure can run, though.”
It was a miserable day. The heavy, metal-grey clouds occasionally overflowed, dumping their contents onto the suburbs of Perth when Kathryn arrived at the studio in Mt. Lawley at 3.50 on Thursday afternoon. Cloud had told her that they practised from three until five and, if she came at four o’clock, they would have had the chance to tune up and warm up first before showing her their repertoire.
Kathryn shivered a little as she entered through the heavy, sound-proofed outer door and paused in the small ante room, hesitating before opening the door to the studio proper. She thought with annoyance that maybe she’d mixed up her dates, because it definitely didn’t seem to be ‘Stormclouds’ she could hear playing from inside the studio. At first she thought it was a tape, until she realised that it wasn’t any version that she’d ever heard of ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’.
The strong female voice rang out,
‘…..that too many people have died’ The voice softened, almost to a whisper.
‘the answer my friend
is blowin’ in the wind
is blowin’ in the wind’
The lump in Kathryn’s throat was testament to the emotion that was put into the last verse of the song. As the final chords died away, she put her hand on the door to leave, only to stay the motion as she heard Storm’s unmistakable voice, through the inner door.
“OK, no more of that shit, hey guys? Let’s get things rolling; Ms. High and Mighty will be here any moment. Jim, let’s roll with ‘Young, Free then Dead’. OK? Ready Cloud, Kenny?”
The opening bars were played of a song Kathryn had never heard. The drums took up the beat and the voice she had just heard caressing the lyrics of a classic song, joined in, almost screaming the first line. Most of the words were unintelligible and, when Kathryn pushed open the door, she understood the reason why. The microphone was pressed so close up to Storm’s mouth, it allowed almost no movement of the lips, the words running in to one another.
Kathryn was noticed but not acknowledged by the members of the band. They rolled from one song to the next, some unknown and some barely recognisable to Kathryn. She watched the gyrations of Storm’s body and slowly came to recognise that, though the lyrics of most of the songs were crude, inflammable and often endorsing suicide, she exuded a sexiness that belied the words.
Kathryn could feel the beat bouncing off the walls, through the floor and into her chest. The pounding was hypnotic and she had to force her mind from its pulse and on to the individual talents of the members of the band. Cloud’s performance on the drums appeared dynamic, though Kathryn’s lack of knowledge didn’t allow her to notice any possible mistakes. Jim, on the lead guitar, seemed talented and, when he did a guitar solo, he also appeared to perform it flawlessly. Kenny, on bass, looked laid back and very handsome. She could imagine him being a draw-card for his looks alone.
Kathryn’s eyes kept straying, involuntarily, to the lead singer who delivered each song with passion and energy. She got the impression that Storm was ‘in the zone’ as the saying went; and not aware, after the first glance, of Kathryn even being there. Kathryn wondered if Storm was on any drugs, amphetamines maybe, as her energy appeared boundless. She knew that drugs were a big part of the music scene and accepted that it was probable that they took something. She only hoped it wasn’t too regular and that they had it under control.
Kathryn became aware, with a surge of surprise, that all of her thinking was being directed towards an acceptance of the challenge. She wasn’t quite sure when the decision had been made; but she knew that Storm’s rendition of ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ would’ve been a big influence. It had showed that Storm, at least, had the capacity to vary her singing style and, if the overheard song was anything to go by, the slower, ballad type songs would suit her very well. She watched Storm again and a rogue thought flashed through her mind, that it would be a pity to douse Storm’s present, raunchy performance completely. It was exciting and somehow intoxicating.
The band wound up their last song and Kathryn glanced at her watch, surprised to see that it was close to five o’clock. Cloud approached her, a grin on his perspiring face, his T-shirt sticking to his chest and shoulders. If this is what they were like in cool surroundings with no lights, Kathryn wondered how their constitution could possibly cope with a steamy night-club and strong, hot lights.
“We have to be out of here by five” Cloud told her, “Did you want to talk now, or leave it until another day?” Without waiting for a reply, he continued, “Kenny’s pad is just round the corner.” He couldn’t quite keep the eagerness out of his voice. Kathryn smiled her reassurance, “I’ve finished for the day so, if it’s all right with the others, it would be really good to get some of the decisions out of the way and…”Kathryn saw the young singer approach from the corner of her eye, “you can tell me what you have all decided.” She added with tact.
Out once more in the cold and wet, Kathryn followed Cloud’s directions to Kenny’s unit, picking up a couple of bottles of wine from a liquor-store on the way. She parked on the road outside the modern, well cared for unit and walked through the small, pretty courtyard, to the door. The hum of conversation stopped as she knocked and walked in. She guessed that she had been the main topic but refrained from comment. She noticed they’d all changed into dry T-shirts which pleased her, as an unlooked for maternal instinct had come to the fore, fearing that they’d all catch pneumonia with the cool air on wet T-shirts. She offered up the wine as her contribution, wanting to indicate to the band that these talks were informal and friendly.
The background music, from the radio housed in the impressive music centre, indicated they were tuned into the local station that played sixties and seventies music. As Cloud opened the wine and Kenny and Jim had a discussion on a piece of music Kenny had written, Kathryn glanced around the tastefully furnished lounge, humming along with the current song.
‘When I woke up this morning
you were on my mi..i..i..ind
I said, you were on my mind
I got troubles whoh-whoh
I got worries whoh-whoh…..’ Storm refused the proffered wine, as she looked over at Kathryn.
“Who sang this one then?” she challenged. Kathryn answered, without breaking the beat.
“Crispian St. Peters.” Storm looked surprised and a little aggrieved.
“I only know the British ones.” Kathryn explained apologetically. ‘I wouldn’t know many of your Aussie ones. I was brought up in England with two older sisters who played music all the time when I was small. I loved it then – still do.”
“All the songs I know are from Pommy land anyway.” Storm’s tone was careless. “My mum had them all on LPs. I learnt them all.” Kathryn was pleased with the slight break-through of Storm’s reserve and took it a step further by teasing her.
“I’ll have to see if you know some of my more obscure artists and songs.”
“Yeah, anytime. I bet I do!”
Kenny broke in to get the discussion back on track by asking Kathryn outright what she’d thought of the band’s playing.
“Well: as I said, I’m not completely up on that type of music and the majority of it was in the style you’re trying to leave behind. I think, however, that there’s an ability there and, if you’re willing to give it a good try, my opinion is that it’ll be possible to change the style.” Kathryn was careful not to say the word ‘improve’. “I would be willing to give my advice as to the things you’d need to change, enhance and maybe lose.”
“How would you go about all that?” Storm’s eyes, looking into hers, were alert and interested.
“Firstly, I really need to know if we’ve got an agreement here. I need a commitment – from all of you.” This last was said with a glance at Storm. “There’s no point going into this half-cocked you know. It has to be all or nothing and …. I really need your trust here.”
Kenny was the first to agree to Kathryn’s terms. Jim and Cloud, with differing glances at Storm, also agreed. All eyes were on Storm.
“It’s everyone or not at all.” Kathryn’s voice was gentle, “I really need your voluntary co-operation on this, Storm.”
“Would I be able to make suggestions? Have my say? Or is it totally autocratic?” Storm demanded to know, a trace of belligerence still in her tone.
“Yes, you could make suggestions. I would discuss all changes with all of you and give my advice on what should be done. If you don’t like it, we’d discuss it some more and maybe compromise. You do have to be prepared to evaluate my suggestions though and not dismiss them out of hand.” Kathryn wanted the cards on the table from the start. Storm shrugged.
“Oh, well – that appears OK. Go for it, then. Now – back to my first question. How will you go about it?”
Kathryn outlined her plans, starting with the suggestion that she organise to video their next gig. She wanted them to perform exactly as they normally did, explaining that she needed to see a live performance to get a benchmark and have it on tape to be able to evaluate it.
“Once I’ve got a handle on some changes, I’ll have to watch some rehearsals and we’ll talk about the type of songs for you to work with. I’ll look at your clothes, your body language on stage and the image you portray off-stage. If you become the success we’re aiming at, your off-stage image will be very important.
I presume you haven’t got a manager as yet. You’ll need one, you know. You’ll need someone who will know which gigs are right for you. Which songs you’ll send to record companies – and when.”
Storm made no comment and the men were a bit hesitant about the suggestion, saying that Storm had always done the management work; their booking and book-keeping etc. and they were happy with this arrangement.
“Well, think about it a bit. Hopefully we’ll be making Storm so busy that she won’t have time to do all that as well. Until then, however: Storm, as designated manager, could you pop by the office tomorrow afternoon sometime and I’ll have the paperwork ready for you to take away and everyone can look at it; then, hopefully, sign?”
They finished the wine and Kathryn said her good-byes, going into the evening chill, leaving the other four to talk. Cloud asked Storm what she really thought about it but she was non-committal.
“It’ll depend what she wants to change, won’t it?”
The music was too loud for conversation between Kathryn and the cameraman and she was glad of their knowledge of each other and that the makeshift sign work seemed to be working. The ‘Stormtroopers’ were due on stage at any minute and Reg indicated that all was in readiness.
Kathryn looked down from their elevated position on the mass of young humanity that heaved below them. Not for anything would she be that young again, she reflected. Reg Hoskins caught her eye and grimaced his agreement to her unspoken thought.
The small stage was in darkness, the band’s equipment already there, high up, out of reach of the crowd. Reg was under instructions to turn the camera predominantly on the band, with a pan of the dancers on occasions to see their reactions. Kathryn watched the undulating crowd standing, dancing, swaying; and she wondered where they found the beat in this type of music. She, herself, couldn’t pick up any noticeable rhythm; and she loved to dance.
Her thoughts were still on the vagaries of youth when she saw the shadows of the four band-members climb the short flight of steps. They set up in position as Kathryn gave Reg the nod to start rolling. The song the DJ was currently playing, wound down to silence. The first chord of the lead guitarist put the previous decibel level in the shade, the sheer magnitude of noise that was generated prompted Reg to reach for his earplugs. A spotlight came on, pinpointing Jim in its glare. His Stormtroopers uniform and helmet was vivid in the naked light and the mass yelled their approval. Cloud joined in on the drums and the spotlight searched for and found him; standing, legs akimbo, putting his all into the opening bars of this, their first number. Kathryn found she was waiting, impatiently, for the spotlight to spear Storm and, when it did, she released the air in her lungs with a sigh. ‘What a build-up!’ She reflected, ‘We’ll have to keep something similar. But quieter!’
Kathryn watched the first few songs, her ears becoming accustomed – ‘or benumbed!’ her mind said – to the noise level. She was fascinated by the bright green laser lights, which made patterns and tunnels in the air above the dancers’ heads. Her mind wandered a little, knowing that she would be able to watch and evaluate the band’s performance in the quietude of work, or her home. She remembered back a week or so when Storm had come into her office to collect the papers. She had made them up as simply as possible and she briefly explained the points to Storm, being gratified at the younger woman’s quick grasp and obvious understanding of them. Storm had looked at Kathryn’s name at the top of the document.
“Hey!” Storm had laughed, “Your initials are K D. There’s a singer called….”
“Yes, I know. kd lang.” Kathryn had grimaced. “I’ll never live it down; and, I’ll tell you now, before you find out anyway — my second name is also Dawn!”
“Hey, that’s wicked. – ‘kd lansdown’ eh?” Kathryn had enjoyed the sound of her amusement. As she’d left, that day, she’d said, “See you later then, kd. I’ll sing one of your songs for you, the next time you come to rehearsal.” Kathryn looked forward to it, as kd lang was a favourite of hers and she had a feeling that Storm would be able to do justice to her songs.
Kathryn’s mind reluctantly left behind the sound of Storm’s amusement as her attention came back to the noise around her; the warm, thick smell of humanity assailing her senses. She became aware of some of the words forcing their way above the band’s music to her. She heard the vicious taunts aimed at the Jewish people. She heard the words of death and torture and was sickened at the concept that was brought vividly to mind. She noted that the band wasn’t actively encouraging them in their race hatred but the words of the songs all seemed to be about death, suicide or similar and the Stormtroopers uniform seemed to be a kind of endorsement of the crowd’s feelings. Storm took off her shirt, revealing a skimpy T-shirt that failed to fully cover her ample breasts and Kathryn was surprised to see the cartoon drawing, on the front, of a little boy and girl kissing. The inscription that read ‘I think you’re cute’ made Kathryn smile. The song finished in a crescendo and Storm turned round, arms and legs apart, clearly showing the writing on the back of the T-shirt, ‘WANNA FUCK?’ Kathryn’s generous mouth tightened as the roar from the crowd was encouraged by a gyrating Storm, hands on her thighs while she undulated her hips in a suggestive motion. Storm knelt, a lock of her bleached blonde hair falling across one eye. She leaned towards the crowd, the microphone up against her mouth and, sex oozing from every pore, whispered.
“Who thinks they’re man enough for me?” The male voices rose in a chorus of crude comments and gestures. Storm stood up, shouting out, “Well, just fuck the lot of you! Wankers!”
One man in the seething mass didn’t respond to Storm’s inflammatory comments. His body didn’t move but his eyes devoured her every movement.
Kathryn was bemused that Storm’s aggressive and insulting behaviour actually seemed to please the swaying mass. She shook her head slightly at the contrariness of youth before shrugging her shoulders.
Kenny, the bass guitarist, played a riff and the other instruments joined in. Kathryn was surprised to recognise Shania Twain’s ‘Man! I feel like a woman’ as she hadn’t heard them practice it. Having something to actually compare it with, on this occasion, she settled down to listen. She was impressed with the rendition, liking Storm’s slightly less raucous performance. She did notice that the band seemed to lose some of the crowd’s attention and realised that this music wasn’t what they wanted to hear. Kathryn, however, was elated, knowing that this song could be incorporated into the new act, without change.
The show finished and Kathryn found herself singing under her breath.
‘The best thing about being a woman
is the prerogative to have a little fun
whoh, oh, oh go totally crazy
forget I’m a lady
men’s shirts – short skirts…..’ Reg interrupted her, asking if he could pack everything up.
“Yeah, go for it, Reg. We’re out of here!” Kathryn stopped and realised she’d spoken in a way that she hadn’t for years. ‘God! One evening amongst this crowd and I’ve forgotten all my hard-earned sophistication!’ They packed up the camera and left the night-club together, joining the throng of night revellers in the heart of Perth. Reg asked if Kathryn would like a coffee but Kathryn, conscious of not giving the wrong signals, refused; citing a busy day coming up.
She took the tape home and put it in her VCR, playing the last song over again. Storm’s performance in this song had seemed more natural, more joyful and the recording endorsed Kathryn’s intuitive feelings of this. She seemed to really enjoy singing the words and a dancing beat was more noticeable. Kathryn wondered how much, if any, of the previous sensationalism was specifically put on for her benefit, as shock value. She chuckled to herself, ‘It’ll take more than that to shock me.’ She may not like the crudeness; but she’d seen the same, if not worse, in her younger days. ‘In my other life!’
Kathryn reluctantly turned off the tape, looking forward to studying it the next day and trying to come up with the necessary changes. Her last thought before sleep was that this project was exciting her, more than any she’d had for a long while.
Kathryn made some general inquiries about the band from friends who worked within the music industry framework. She was particularly interested in Storm’s lifestyle. She learned of Cloud and Storms’s upbringing with a mother straight from the hippy era. The picture that she was given, was of a household of free sex, drugs and very little discipline. The mother had seemed to have had a succession of men after [and probably before] her husband had left her to return to England. He’d turned out to be a good provider for the children over the years, though Kathryn doubted whether they always saw the full value of it. Their mother, Josie, had also apparently had the knack of attracting wealthy men however, so their standard of living was high.
Josie had died in a car accident, directly as a result of driving under the influence of drugs two years previously. Cloud and Storm had been left comfortably off, more by luck than good judgement on their mother’s behalf. Kathryn was surprised to learn that Storm was twenty-three, as she’d appeared to be much more immature than that. Their mother’s death had happened just days before Storm’s twenty-first birthday and Kathryn momentarily felt a pang of sympathy for Storm. The feeling didn’t last however, as Kathryn’s friends relayed the rumours which were rife about the young singer. Storm had obviously taken the same path as Josie and her past was strewn with jilted lovers. She was known as loud, outrageous, promiscuous and careless of other’s feelings but, Kathryn’s friends told her, there hadn’t been any rumours of over-indulgence with drugs or alcohol and the friends that Storm had were always very supportive of her. There was also a train of thought that she was a pretty bright girl and one rumour had it that she was doing a university degree part-time. Kathryn was inclined to discount that one, along with the more far-fetched rumours. She was more concerned at the image that Storm had, rather than the truth of the stories.
The men in the group had been more circumspect and Kathryn didn’t feel she would have any repair work to do there. She was surprised that the relationship between Storm and Kenny had survived the three years or more that they had, reputedly, been together. Kathryn’s opinion of Kenny dipped a little at this information, as it appeared rather weak of him. Kathryn pulled herself up short with a self-admonishment, her job wasn’t to judge anyone, it was simply to try to project the required image.
She worked on a short list of necessary changes, such as the name change, which was essential. Her advice to the band would be to cancel all engagements under the old name and give themselves at least a month without any engagements to work on new songs and a new act. Basically she wanted them to go underground, to not be seen at all by their regular friends, as contact with them would disrupt their transformation. The getting of a manager she deemed to be essential because he would have to find them new engagements and work alongside them with the new songs, with a view of sending demo discs to the record companies.
Kathryn tried not to be dictatorial in her advice about their appearance on stage, only suggesting a slightly quieter mode of dress for Storm, indicating that the shock value of her previous stage clothes would be lost on the audience they were now targeting. Obviously the stormtroopers uniform would be out, along with the songs that incited violence, hatred and bigotry.
She covered a number of pages with her points and advice, finishing it with the suggestion that they consider the points in detail. She invited them to get in touch when they had discussed her proposals.
Storm was indignant when she read Kathryn’s proposals.
“What a bitch! She’s got a bloody nerve!” Kenny tried to calm her down but she refused to be mollified, she continued to rant, “It’s all very well for you guys. You don’t have to do anything different, it’s only me who has to change the way she dresses, it’s only me who has to change her behaviour! God! The woman hates me: and I have to do everything she says? Not bloody likely!” Jim had had enough of Storm’s complaining, “Shut the fuck up, Storm. She’s doing what we’ve asked her to do, for God’s sake! If you’d just pull your head in a bit, we might all be better off!”
Storm looked at Jim with fiery, blue eyes, which held just a hint of hurt.
“You know that most of it is …..”
“Yes, we know.” Cloud tried to settle the situation, “You just don’t have to put on your usual act for a while, that’s all, kiddo. Just be more like the real you, without the pretence.”
The picture the words conjured up; that of a young Storm, hurt showing openly in her face, the butt of her mother’s jokes, scared her. She hadn’t been her normal self for so many years. She knew she was still too vulnerable from the hurt that she’d felt so deeply. That to take off her invisible armour would only leave her susceptible. She knew she couldn’t just shed her camouflage, especially as Kathryn had shown the dislike she felt for the present Storm. Her pride wouldn’t allow her to be seen to bow to Kathryn’s likes and wishes. She made up her mind to go along with Kathryn’s other suggestions but vowed that nothing was going to uncover her protective shell.
Cloud rang Kathryn and arranged for them to meet in her office on Friday afternoon at two and then go on to the studio to jam, maybe coming up with some appropriate songs. They arrived in two pairs, Cloud and Jim getting there first. They were having a coffee with Kathryn when Storm and Kenny arrived and, after asking their preference, arranged for the tea and coffee to be brought in.
The discussion was rewarding and Kathryn’s suggestions analysed in detail. They told Kathryn that they’d decided on ‘Stormclouds’ as a name, which was pleasing to her. When they reached the part, in the proposition, about the more circumspect behaviour that was asked of Storm, she was adamant that nobody was going to screw with her life.
“I’ll wear different clothes on stage if I have to but I’m not going to be told what I do with my private life. It’s my fucking business!”
“We are hoping that your private life will become very much the public’s business before too long.” Kathryn spoke between clenched jaws, finding that yet again her temper was starting to rise and wondered how this woman seemed to always get under her skin.
Storm was aware that this woman, sitting so coolly behind her big desk, made her want to hit out and be a thorough bitch but she wasn’t quite sure why. Her mind was still on the question when Cloud, once more, intervened, trying to diffuse the tension in the air and fill the silence.
“By the way, Storm, I saw Vic yesterday and she said she wanted to see you.” Storm thought with affection about their neighbour of the last ten years.
“That old dyke! What does she….?” Storm was interrupted by Kathryn’s cold voice as she asked, in a voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Oh; and where do dykes come in your own particular hate list, Storm? Before or after kykes?” Storm was staggered. She felt the blood flow to her face in sudden mortification, that this woman thought she was capable of hating people for their race, or their sexual orientation. Her face paled again as pride came to the rescue and she lifted her head to stare into Kathryn’s angry, green eyes. ‘Let her think what the hell she likes. I’m not defending myself.’ Cloud went to speak out in protest but a flicker from Storm’s piercing eyes stopped his words of defence.
Kathryn made a big effort to regain control of herself, disgusted that she’d let it slip to the extent of letting her anger show. She was puzzled by the momentary expression of hurt in Storm’s eyes before they challenged her own. She knew she had gone too far and she offered Storm an apology.
“I shouldn’t have said that. I’m sorry, Storm.” Storm just nodded and dropped her eyes to contemplate her boot, which was resting on the opposite knee. Her fingers tapped a tattoo as she waited for the conversation to continue around her.
The only subject that hadn’t been covered was that of a manager. When Kathryn brought it up, Cloud suddenly snapped his fingers, an idea coming to mind.
“How about you, Kathryn.” Storm’s head snapped up but he continued, “That would make perfect sense. You’re managing Aaron and his mates. Well, what about managing us?” Before Storm could jump in with a repudiation of the offer, Kathryn spoke, “I’m afraid I wouldn’t have time, Cloud. I’m actually cutting down my workload to take six months or so off, to write a book. When we’ve worked out your new image, I’ll only have the athletes left in my portfolio.” She was touched by their suggestion; all except Storm had seemed enthusiastic about the idea.
The discussions at an end, they organised to meet at the studio, after Kathryn had cleared everything from her desk for the week. She saw them to the door and Kathryn was surprised to find herself disappointed when Storm left with no good-bye to ‘kd’.
Kathryn arrived at the studio to find the band already set up and ready to go. Cloud explained what they were going to do, “We’re just going to run through a few songs we know, hopefully the type which could fit into the new act. We’ll try a few new songs, or parts of songs anyway, to see if they sound OK.”
“That sounds good, Cloud.” Kathryn answered, “I’ll make notes as we go along. I may have to interrupt occasionally to ask for the name of a song. Would that be acceptable?”
“Yeah, sure. It’s a jam session. We’ll all be talking.”
The band started with an unknown song and they soon got into a pattern of discussion and adjustment. Kathryn was really enjoying the mixture of slow, fast, old and new material. She was starting to appreciate the quality of their playing. They were showing a versatility that was impressive. They played a number of covers and they did them in their own style. Kathryn found herself humming along with them on the old sixties songs, liking the band’s choices. She heard Storm start the lyrics of yet another oldie and recognised one of her favourite’s, the Dusty Springfield classic ‘You don’t own me’. The band picked up the tune.
‘You don’t own me
I’m not just one of your
She met Storm’s look and realised that this one was specifically for her. She couldn’t turn away from the mesmerising eyes and hypnotic voice.
‘You don’t own me
don’t say I can’t go
with other boys’
The tendons on the young singer’s neck stood out in thin cords as the voice built up, the power growing.
‘and don’t tell me what to do
and don’t tell me what to say
and please when I’m out with you
don’t put me on display
‘cos … you don’t own me…..’
While Kathryn found herself impaled by those eyes, a grudging admiration built up at both Storm’s voice and her ability to pick the right song for the occasion. She waited for the scathing words to finish and the song to end, then broke into spontaneous applause; both for the song and Storm’s audacity. She gave a little nod in Storm’s direction to acknowledge her understanding of Storm’s aim and was rewarded with a slight softening of expression on the singer’s face. The smile was fleeting but Kathryn was astonished by its magnetism.
When they parted, at the end of a very productive session, Kathryn was sure that the band was capable of realising their ambitions and finding the image they were seeking. Kathryn realised that Storm hadn’t sung the promised kd lang song for her. ‘Maybe next time’ Kathryn hoped. The band had said they would put together the songs chosen from this session and work on a complete act, incorporating most of them. Kathryn had suggested that she ring them early the following week, to see how they were getting on with it. As they’d left the studio, walking outside together into a cool shower of rain, Storm had hunched up against the rain.
“OK, guys, I’m off. See you later.” Storm waved laconically. “See you, kd. Stay cool.”
Storm was feeling bored on Sunday afternoon. She’d stayed in the previous night, feeling like a quiet night. Though she was determined that she wasn’t going to accept everything that kd suggested, she was still relieved to be able to justifiably quieten her night life. She’d taken Vicky’s dog, Sally, for a long walk that morning and she was feeling invigorated and restless. She decided to walk into Subiaco, maybe have a coffee, then walk home.
She enjoyed the half-hour stroll in the bright sunlight, the recent rains had washed everything clean, leaving a sparkle in the air. She wandered around the market, browsing through the stalls, then picked a café bar she’d never been in before; not wanting to bump into any of her social set. She walked from the bright sunlight into the relative gloom of the café. Allowing her eyes time to adjust, she glanced around the room noticing with surprise, over in one corner, Kathryn deep in conversation with a big, handsome man. Kathryn’s eyes lifted from the man’s face, focusing on the newcomer and Storm watched as recognition dawned. Not quite sure what she wanted to do, Storm laconically lifted a hand in greeting. She watched as Kathryn spoke briefly to her companion then stood, beckoning Storm across. ‘Why not?’ Storm decided, ‘It might liven things up, anyway.’ She strolled across and Kathryn introduced her friend, Jonathon, who pulled out a chair, inviting Storm to join them.
Storm took a sidelong look at Jonathon, liking what she saw. She wondered at their relationship. ‘Should I ….?’ An imp of mischief prompted her. Kathryn seemed to sense her thoughts.
“Jonathon is an old friend of mine. Both Jon and Jenny, his wife, are very good friends.” letting Storm know, in no uncertain fashion, that he wasn’t on the market; and she wasn’t to try her feminine wiles on him. “Jon is the owner of the Crown Hotel, here in Perth. He also owns one in Harare and I’m helping him out by finding him an act to play over there. I’ve got a tentative arrangement with ‘Helter Skelter’. Do you know them, Storm?”
Storm did know Helter Skelter, having been rivals in a competition which the other band had won, years before. They had gone in slightly different directions, musically, since then and Helter Skelter had become a successful pub band.
“Yeah, I know them. They’re good. How long are they going to be in Zimbabwe?” Storm liked the slight surprise in Kathryn’s eyes at her geographical knowledge. ‘I could surprise you a hell of a lot more, if I felt like it.’
“Three weeks, starting the middle of next month.” Kathryn expanded, “I was over there when the hotel was being built, a year or so ago. It’s a beautiful country.” Storm could tell by the faraway look in Kathryn’s eyes that she was picturing it and the soft smile on her lips showed that the images were well loved.
Jonathon winked at Storm and elaborated a little.
“Kathryn was my ‘eyes’ over there. She planned the decor, the ambience and helped David with the planning of the type of entertainment needed. She knows exactly what we want for the bar. I’ve been trying to persuade her to be our booking agent over here but she’s refused. By the way, Kathryn, how are the plans for the book going? Got your special project yet? Or is it – ‘look in the archives for old files’?” Kathryn shook her head, “No, no bright ideas yet. I’ve been working with Storm’s band for the last week, so not had a lot of time to think about it.” Storm turned to Jonathon, watching Kathryn from the corner of her eye as she spoke.
“We’ve been trying to persuade Kathryn to be our manager; and we seem to have had the same luck as you.” She was gratified to see the astonishment in kd’s eyes, knowing her assertion would have been unexpected.
“Popular lady is our Kathryn.” Jonathon went to stand, “Well, ladies; I have to go. Jenny’s cooking a lamb roast; and nothing keeps me from that! Bye, love” he bent to kiss Kathryn’s cheek. “It was good to meet you, Storm. Keep on at her, you may have better luck than I did.”
Jonathon’s departure created a moment of silence. Storm sipped her coffee, her eyes straying around the room. Kathryn’s eyes were on Storm, an idea slowly forming in her mind.
“Did you mean that?” Storm didn’t pretend to misunderstand. She shrugged, “It seems the best thing for us. Don’t know about you. We’d have all the ‘top guns’,” this last being said with a grimace, “all pulling in the same direction. You seem to have some contacts around the place, so it could be of benefit to us. As I said, I don’t know what you’d get out of it, kd. Apart from the commission of course.” The idea in Kathryn’s head was taking form and an excitement was starting to show in her eyes. She leaned forward.
“I might just have a suggestion for you all. I’ll have to work out some details first but …..”
“Kathy? Is that you, Kathy darling?” The voice came from the woman who had just been shown to a seat at the table behind Jonathon’s empty chair. Storm saw Kathryn’s face flush up and watched with interest as her hand stilled, before she slowly looked up to face the newcomer.
“It is you! I could hardly recognise you! Just look at you! Your clothes! Your hair! Even your voice has changed! If I hadn’t known you so well, I swear I would never have recognised you!”
The long, staccato speech seemed to give Kathryn time to recover her equilibrium. Storm, who had been totally ignored by this perfectly dressed, strange woman, had time to observe at will. She was fascinated by the veil of wariness and caution which had come over Kathryn’s strong features, her elegant body a stillness of tension.
“Hello Bernice.” Kathryn’s voice was cool, reserved, her broad shoulders squared. “What brings you to Perth?”
“Oh, work, as ever. Darling, your book was so good! I felt very proud of being a part of it. How long have you been here now? It must be six years, mustn’t it? You’re looking so good as well.” Kathryn had recovered her manners and she broke in, looking across at Storm. “Storm, I’d like you to meet an old friend of mine from Melbourne, Bernice Sauvage. Bernice, this is Storm McInnes, a business associate.” Storm was intrigued at the inter-play between the two women. Kathryn’s explanation to Bernice, of the manner of their acquaintance, seemed unnecessary and, anyway, she couldn’t really see herself in the role of business associate. Bernice finally turned to Storm, examined her and, with a cool nod in her direction, obviously dismissed her. Storm’s hackles started to rise.
Bernice turned to her companions on the other table, “I won’t be a minute, darlings. I’ve just met a very close, old friend.” Turning once more her eyes travelled over Kathryn’s informal but still very smart clothes. She saw the rather severe hairstyle, the perfectly administered make-up and laughed, a tinkling sound which grated on Storm. “How different you look, Kathy. Whatever happened to the jeans and T-shirts you used to wear on a Sunday? And your hair! I’ve never seen it up before. You look a different person.” Her hand brushed Kathryn’s arm and Storm watched as the back of it trailed up to Kathryn’s shoulder. Storm was irritated, ‘Get your smarmy hands off her. Can’t you see she doesn’t like it.’ Storm restrained herself, with difficulty, from actually saying the words. She was acutely aware of the tension in Kathryn’s body and was surprised to find that she didn’t want to worsen the situation.
“Yes, yes, darlings! I’m coming. We have to meet, Kathy. What’s your number?” Kathryn was obviously reluctant to give it out.
“I can never guarantee when I’ll be there. How about making a time and day now? How long are you in town?”
“I was thinking of leaving next Friday but I think I’ll delay it for a while. Catch up with you. How about Thursday evening?”
“Yes, I think I’m free then. How about meeting in the bar in the Crown Hotel? Say; eight o-clock?” Bernice laughed once more and agreed, bending with the obvious intention of planting a perfumed kiss on Kathryn’s cheek. Storm noticed with amusement that Kathryn turned her head further than necessary and the lips only brushed against an ear. Another tinkle from Bernice, “It’s a date, darling. See you Thursday.” She wagged a playful finger, “Don’t you be late now.”
Storm watched as the tension slowly drained from Kathryn’s shoulders. She managed to restrain her curiosity; feeling, not for the first time, slightly unsettled by the unusual combination of the slightly masculine elements within Kathryn, which were softened by her feminine beauty. Kathryn finally turned to her, a rueful smile on her face. She shrugged her apology.
“Sorry, Storm. Bernice can be rather overwhelming; and I’m afraid her manners haven’t improved much. She was very rude. I apologise.” This apology rankled, as Storm didn’t want Kathryn to feel responsible for Bernice’s manners.
“That’s OK. Don’t think about it. It wasn’t your fault.” She decided to change the subject. “Hey! I’ve got one for you. Who sang ‘Along came Jones’?” Kathryn’s face screwed up in thought.
“I know it. I just can’t place it. Sing a few bars for me.” Storm sang, her voice deep.
‘and then along came Jones
tall, thin Jones
slow walking Jones
slow talking Jones
along came lonely, lanky Jones’. Kathryn was smiling before Storm had finished.
“Of course! It’s Ray Stevens. I’ve actually got a tape of his somewhere. What about ‘The Streak’? That’s my favourite. Storm liked the enthusiastic note in Kathryn’s voice as it corresponded to her own feelings.
“OK. Another one.” Storm thought for a while, before a slow smile appeared on her face. “You’ll never guess this one, kd. ‘Just like Eddie’,” Kathryn shook her head, an answering smile on her lips.
“I know how it goes. I know it’s about Eddie Cochrane. I’ve got no idea who sang it.”
“Heinz!” Storm was gloating now, “I don’t know what happened to him, he only had one or two hits. That was definitely one of them, though.”
They continued to test each other and, when they parted, it was on more amicable terms that they’d been at any time previously. Storm was glad she’d taken Kathryn’s attention from the ‘witchy-poo’ woman, as she’d started to think of Bernice. Kathryn’s last request had been intriguing. She’d asked Storm if she could arrange for the band to come around to her house in Maylands on the following night. She thought she may have a proposition for them. Storm had agreed and spent the time on the walk home wondering what it could be about. ‘Maybe she’s going to agree to manage us after all.’ She thought. ‘If she does, she’d better not expect me to change everything.’ Storm was still adamant.
The man replaced the phone onto its cradle after letting it ring out. Where was she? He was disappointed, as he’d needed to hear her voice, needed to visualise her, listening to him.
He lay back on his bed and closed his eyes, thoughts of Storm swirling in his head. He knew it was only time before she’d want him as much as he wanted her. His hand moved and tightened as his visions of her cleared, grew, overwhelmed him.
Kathryn welcomed the four band members to her home. She showed them through the house, proud of its decor and furnishings. She took them through to the balcony with its peaceful views of the river. The glittering lights of the city in the background only enhanced the serenity of the water. She got the normal response from first time visitors; the vista never failing to impress. Returning inside, they settled into her comfortable, leather armchairs and Storm looked around, “Not real homely, though; is it? More like a show house really.” Kathryn felt a small stab of pain at the inferred criticism. She did have to acknowledge to herself, however, that she’d often thought the very same. Her voice was cool and held a hint of reproval, however, as she answered Storm.
“I suppose it’s what your personal taste is. I find this very comfortable and it suits me.” Storm shrugged carelessly and Kathryn wondered where their rapport of yesterday had gone. After getting drinks for everybody, noticing that Storm once more preferred a cool drink over the proffered alcoholic drink, Kathryn outlined her idea. The others listened quietly, then Kathryn recapped her proposition.
“I would manage you, full time; and you would allow me to make use of the experience by using it in my book. You wouldn’t be named of course and the circumstances would be described differently; but the band’s change of image would be the recurring theme throughout the book.” She looked at Storm, “You said yesterday that you didn’t know what I would get out of managing you. Well; with this arrangement I would get a lot.” She looked at them all, “I think everybody would benefit from it. What are your thoughts?”
The men asked questions, Storm remained quiet. Kathryn answered the questions as fully as she could, watching the little frown that remained on Storm’s face. She knew by now that Storm had a big influence on the men in the band and, though they’d outvoted her on the issue of the image changing, it wasn’t something that happened often. She turned her attention to Storm.
“What do you think, Storm?” Storm was pensive, before asking a question.
“How would the way you’d manage us now, differ from the way you would’ve managed us, if you had decided to before?” The wording was clumsy but Kathryn understood the meaning of the question.
“I wouldn’t do anything different, I promise. I wouldn’t invent situations that would make my book more exciting and commercial. It would be an honest exercise and if at the end of it, there is no material for the book; well, that’s the way it goes.”
This seemed to satisfy the men; and Kathryn was relieved when Storm unexpectedly agreed also. Her only proviso was that lawyers from both sides had to be involved with the writing up of the contract.
“I would expect us to be able to put a veto on anything that could be damaging to us.” Kathryn was thrown slightly by Storm’s unexpected professionalism, as it belied the somewhat careless and empty-headed image she had previously given. She decided not to pursue the puzzle, only being too pleased that her proposal had been accepted. She agreed immediately to Storm’s stipulations, as they were what she had already planned to include in the contract.
They continued to talk about the arrangements but Storm was getting restless, wandering about the big room. She interrupted the general discussion.
“Can I have a look around the rest of the house?” she asked of Kathryn.
“Certainly. Have a good look round. Be careful of George and Mildred, though. They’re around somewhere.” Storm presumed by Kathryn’s smiling face that they were not especially dangerous, so she walked out of the lounge to examine the split-level house.
When Storm hadn’t returned thirty minutes later, Kathryn excused herself from the men, going to look for her. She was finally found in Kathryn’s own bedroom. On Kathryn’s bed in fact. She had one cat draped across her chest and she was busy tickling the other one by her side.
“So you found G and M then? Or rather they espied you and found a comfortable chest to sleep on. What do you think of them?” Storm’s hand stopped tickling the ball of fluff at her side and a little pink nose pushed into it, demanding more.
“Pushy little devils aren’t they? I presume it’s Mildred that’s using me as a cat basket? Tortoiseshell cats always being female, I mean.”
“That’s right.” Kathryn agreed, adding that the comfort-loving cat wouldn’t get off by herself, “You’ll have to turf her off, when you’re ready. Cloud, Jim and Kenny are about ready to leave but they said you came in your own car, so: take your time. I’ll just go and see them out.”
“Hey, kd!’ Storm stopped her, before continuing with an observation.
“I like this room better than the rest. It seems like it’s got more character. Maybe more of your own character?” Her eyebrows were raised in question. Kathryn was non-committal, “See you in a while.”
Storm emerged from the bedroom, walking into the lounge to find Kathryn sipping a drink, listening to Simon and Garfunkel.
“Like a drink?”
“No, don’t get up. I’ll grab myself one.” She gave Kathryn a cheeky look, “I know where everything is!”
Kathryn watched her settle in another armchair, nursing a glass of milk. She listened with pleasure as Storm harmonised with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, until the younger woman stopped singing and turned to Kathryn, “Where did you know that woman from?” Kathryn knew immediately who she meant and she chose her words carefully.
“I knew Bernice in Melbourne. When I first met her I was getting over a failed business venture.”
“Yes, I know,” Storm broke in, “I read your book last night.” Kathryn’s face showed astonishment.
“In one night?” At Storm’s nod, she shook her head in mock disbelief, “When you do something, you go the whole way, don’t you?” Storm nodded solemnly.
Kathryn looked at her, askance; but continued with her story.
“Well, after the business failed I had to defer the university course I was taking. No money, you see. I had to earn some, so I went to work in an hotel, as assistant manager. That’s where I learned a bit about the music industry. As it was my job to book the acts, I met quite a few agents.
That was when I first started writing the book and also about the time I first met Bernice. After I’d worked at the hotel for a year, Bernice persuaded me to leave and work at a college as a part-time lecturer on business management.. The reason for that was so that I could have more time to write my book. Bernice backed me financially to allow this to happen. I was very relieved that the book was enough of a success that I could pay her back in full. She was right to claim some credit for the book. Who knows: without her it may not have been written.”
“Bullshit!” Storm interjected, “You would have written it one way or another. It just would’ve taken a little longer. How come you lost contact with the wit…er, with Bernice? I’d have thought you must’ve been pretty close?”
Kathryn leaned back, allowing her memories to intrude. Storm didn’t know how right she was. They had been very close. Partners, in fact. Emotional partners – lovers. They were lovers for two years, with Bernice complaining, almost from the start, about Kathryn’s obvious ‘gay’ look. It wasn’t surprising that Bernice had been astonished at the change in her whole appearance. She was a completely different person now. It had been a painful transition but she’d got through it. Remembering the Kate she’d been six years before, she was still able to feel sympathy towards her. She hadn’t really deserved the criticism. It had been hard for her, as all she’d wanted to do was to proclaim their relationship from the rooftops, proud of their love for each other but Bernice had insisted it be kept totally secret.
Towards the end of their second year together, the book was completed, all but the editing and Kathryn was still lecturing at the college. A young student had started following her, a rather unbalanced girl, who had just realised her own sexuality and had become infatuated with Kathryn, her lecturer. Kathryn had laughed it off, not giving it any serious thought, apart from nuisance value. Bernice had wanted her to report it to the police but she’d refused, not giving credence to Bernice’s warnings of danger. She had received many phone calls from the girl, had seen her loitering outside her flat and was frequently accosted on campus. She had tried talking to the girl, explaining that she was in a relationship; but nothing worked. The girl continued to stalk her. Bernice had been angry, saying that Kathryn had brought it on herself by being so outwardly gay.
Kathryn had tried to calm Bernice, saying the girl would soon get over it. She didn’t feel she was in any kind of physical danger.
“After all,” she’d told Bernice, “the girl professes to be crazy about me, so why would she hurt me?” One day, a situation had occurred that neither of them had foreseen. The girl had actually trapped Bernice in Kathryn’s flat and threatened her with a knife. Luckily Kathryn had arrived home and they’d managed to overpower the thin wisp of a girl.
In the ensuing trial Bernice had made it clear to everyone that she only had a passing acquaintance with Kathryn, making her lover feel betrayed. The girl had got a suspended sentence and a court order put on her never to approach Kathryn again. They never saw her again but the damage was done. Kathryn and Bernice split up in less than amicable circumstances and this was the first time they’d met since.
Kathryn came back to the present to find Storm watching her.
“Oh, sorry. What did you ask?”
“No, it doesn’t matter. Are you looking forward to seeing her on Thursday?”
“No,” As Kathryn spoke, she realised it was the truth. “I’m not actually looking forward to seeing her at all. I only hope I can make it a short meeting.” Storm’s expression could have held a tinge of sympathy, until she yawned and stood up to leave.
“Well; I’m off. Thanks for the drinks. I’ll get our lawyers to contact you tomorrow. No point hanging around, is there?”
“Wait a moment, Storm. I’ve got a good one for you. Who sang ‘Jesamine’?” Storm threw back her head and laughed.
“The Casuals’. You’ll have to do better than that, kd. Keep thinking. See you soon.”
Kathryn shut the door behind Storm and walked into the bedroom.
“Mildred, you’re such a slut. Close your legs for goodness sake. Well, guys. What did you think of her? She certainly seemed to like you two, so that’s a plus isn’t it. No, George. You know I have to get ready for bed before we have our cuddle. OK OK, just one stroke. Mmm, you’re both gorgeous, you know?” She prepared for bed, thinking about the conversation with Storm. She hated having always to choose her words, to make sure nothing slipped out. She thought ruefully about the Kathy she’d left behind, always saying the first thing that came into her head, always honest. There were times when she missed her, times when she wasn’t too keen on the Kathryn she had become.
She remembered all the seminars based on changing image, the many courses and talks she’d been to on the subject, when she’d first arrived in Perth. She vividly remembered the day she realised that she could give better talks, organise better seminars than the ones she was attending. It had taken a while but her one-person company had blossomed into a thriving business: and her transformation was complete. She knew she shouldn’t complain about the little drawbacks, the not so comfortable clothes, the time spent on hair and face and the controlled way of acting and speaking. No. She knew everything had panned out just as she’d planned it. She didn’t even miss the closeness of a partner, having decided that her position didn’t lend itself to a relationship. She had made the decision, when she was making the changes to herself, that love was all in the past. Love; and pain.
She’d found it easy tonight to casually mention the losing of her business. She would have found it much more painful to talk about the betrayal of her partner of the time, Kristy. She’d met Kristy when she was twenty four. Together, they had bought a book-shop, which had become a thriving little business. They’d sold some of the more alternate books and provided a small café service and a friendly face for their customers at the same time. After two years the bookstore was going so well that Kathryn had decided to go back to university, to add to her degrees in Business Management and English Literature. She decided on Psychology as that was where her interest lay.
After the first year she’d wanted the book-shop audited as usual but Kristy had kept putting it off. Eventually, Kathryn had organised it and had been shocked to find the business in the red. She could have accepted it, had it only been bad management and bad decisions by Kristy that had made the business fail. Kristy had pleaded to be left in sole charge while Kathryn was studying and it came out that Kristy had been milking the business, sharing the proceeds with an old girlfriend. Kathryn had not been too surprised, when she was eventually told that the old girlfriend wasn’t so much ‘old’ as ‘current’.
“Move over, you two. Mum’s coming in!” She pushed the two cats aside but immediately felt the imprint of paws on her body as she was climbed on. The cats went through their own particular rituals of paddling and circling, then settled down to sleep. She thought once more of the two ex-girlfriends who had given her the most pain.
“Bugger them all!” She felt relieved at the use of such an expletive; and the cats didn’t seem to mind in the least! She flicked on the remote control of her TV, pressing the ‘play’ button on the VCR and Storm’s face filled the screen. She pressed ‘mute’ and watched the play of expressions on Storm’s mobile face during the performance. After a while she sighed and switched off the equipment. She fell asleep with the words of a song going through her mind.
‘When Jesamine goes
a part of me knows
I’m not really living
A butterfly child
so free and so wild
and so full of living.
What can you say
when a girl doesn’t want to know
it’s too far away
and she makes my life
When Jesamine stays
though time goes fast
this is my world at last
beautiful days lost in her eyes
but then the whole world dies…
Storm looked at the clock on the wall on Thursday evening; it was 7:30 p.m. She felt restless, wanting to go out. Specifically, she wanted to go to the Crown hotel, as she was intrigued with Kathryn’s meeting with Bernice. She wanted to watch the sequel to their previous encounter. She’d called Kenny earlier to ask if he could take her but he had a special evening lined up. He’d been evasive when she’d asked if it was serious. It sounded as if he wanted it to be but wasn’t too sure about it.
“Well, good luck. Hope it goes great.” Storm had been supportive.
The band had been working hard since Monday, discussing which songs to have in the new act and then rehearsing the music. The new compositions had been completed and incorporated into the show and Cloud felt that it was coming together well, though Storm was still sceptical, thinking it too tame and soft. The order of songs was very important and they had experimented, trying a few variations. A phone call from Kathryn on Tuesday morning with a request had proved providential. They had needed one more fast song to keep the balance of the act. They had a couple of old hits in mind but they hadn’t seemed quite right. Kathryn had rung to say she was organising for the new act to be videoed by her friend whenever they had something ready. She’d been quite diffident in her request to Storm, “I don’t suppose you’ve considered Laura Brannigan’s ‘Gloria’ for the act have you? It’s one of my favourites and I think your voice would be great for it.” Storm had been reserved but interested, as she remembered that the song had been one of the first hits that she’d learnt the words to, at about seven years of age. Cloud found an old music sheet for it and they’d tried it out. It’d been perfect for the gap in the act and Storm had really enjoyed singing it.
Storm made the decision to ring a few friends regardless of Kathryn’s recommendation not to. She was sure that some of them would accompany her to the Crown. She could make a point of telling Kathryn that ‘Gloria’ had fitted in quite well. She rang Troy, an old friend and was lucky enough to catch him in, with another few mates. Troy told her they’d missed her company and gladly agreed to go to the Crown with her.
“Not for too long, though. We’re planning on going to ‘The Dive’ later. Come with us, it’ll be really rocking.” Storm said she’d see how she felt later in the evening. Storm was a little wary when she heard that one of the friends with Troy was Liam. Liam had proved to be quite a nuisance in the past, pawing her and refusing to acknowledge Storm’s boundaries, being sure that he was missing out on what everyone else was getting. She shrugged, confidant that she could handle him, especially early in an evening. She offered to pick them all up and run them in as she, as usual, wouldn’t be drinking alcohol.
They arrived at the Crown and Storm immediately saw Kathryn deep in conversation with Bernice, their heads close together. Storm found herself feeling a little piqued at Kathryn’s closeness to the woman. After all, Kathryn had insisted that she wasn’t looking forward to seeing her ex-friend tonight. Storm and her group of friends were on the opposite side of the dimmed bar and Storm knew she hadn’t yet been noticed by Kathryn. Troy and the other men had already had a few drinks before leaving home so were a bit boisterous and were quite receptive to Storm’s suggestion of dancing. The dance floor was already quite crowded and they joined the throng, some of the men asking other women to dance.
As the next hour wore on, Troy’s friends became more and more noisy and Storm was becoming more extravagant with her dance movements, her energy appearing boundless. The glances she frequently threw in Kathryn’s direction showed Kathryn now sitting upright and Bernice leaning forward, sometimes placing a hand on top of Kathryn’s hand. The more irritated Storm got, the more outrageous her behaviour, unconsciously wanting to attract Kathryn’s attention. The noise they were making finally seemed to drag Kathryn’s attention from her companion. Storm caught the movement of Kathryn’s head in their direction, just as one of the men clasped her from behind. Still in the grip of an unreasoned anger, she let her head drop back onto the hard chest and circled her hips backwards against the heat of his groin.
Storm wasn’t sure just why she was feeling so annoyed with Kathryn but this knot of anger coiled within her and she felt the urge to punish the older woman. Acting the way that Kathryn had specifically asked her not to, seemed as good a way as any. The music stopped and Liam swung her round, grinding his erection into her pelvis. His mouth came down on hers and she felt his teeth hard against her lips. She forced herself to relax, trying not to struggle against the unwanted intimacy. As soon as his mouth released hers, she hissed at him to release her immediately. She could see the pale outline of Kathryn’s face in the gloom and could imagine the disapproving look on her face and she felt her anger dissipate as suddenly as it had come. It came to her that maybe she didn’t want to be the cause of that disapproval, not tonight anyway! She pushed the unwanted man from her with distaste and made her way towards the ‘Ladies room’ to try to cool the heat that the unexpected feeling of shame had brought to her face.
She stood in front of the mirror, trying to analyse the confusing mixture of feelings she’d had during the evening. She had barely begun, however, when the outside door opened and Kathryn walked in. They stared at each other in the mirror, one face young and flushed, the other looking pained, almost hurt. Storm couldn’t bear the silence, so went on the offensive.
“Shit! I’ve got to go out sometimes. You can’t expect me to stay in every night!” Kathryn’s gaze didn’t falter, she examined Storm, taking in the heated face, the fiery eyes, “God, she’s gorgeous!” A voice in Kathryn’s head groaned. She shook her head slightly to rid herself of the rogue thought.
“I didn’t intend for you to stay in, Storm. All I was asking for was a little less ostentation, a little more control. Is that too much to ask, when your musical career is on the line?” Kathryn’s voice became tired, drained of emotion. Storm had time to wonder at it, to wonder what type of discussion with Bernice had brought this look of exhaustion to Kathryn’s face. Storm felt an unexpected desire to smooth the frown away with her fingers, to stroke the worry from Kathryn’s face. She did neither. Her eyes broke the reflected contact and she turned away, shaken by the force of her need. She groped for words; in her confusion forgetting what they’d been talking about. She grasped at a memory, desperate to bury her thoughts.
“Thanks for the suggestion of us playing ‘Gloria’.” Storm was uncharacteristically enthusiastic. “It’s really great, you ought to hear it.” Kathryn’s face cleared into a smile and, back in control of her thoughts, she spoke briskly.
“That’s good, Storm. Any idea when you’ll be ready for Reg to bring down the camera?”
“Any time.” Storm’s reply was quick, “Yeah, anytime you want to now, we’re all ready. I’ve gotta go now, my friends’ll be wondering where I am. See ya.” Storm started for the door, eager to make her escape.
“Bye, Storm. Take care.”
When Kathryn emerged from the rest room, there was no sign of Storm or her friends. She looked across to the table that she’d shared with Bernice and sighed with relief. ‘Thank God that’s finished with!’ Bernice had started by reminding Kathryn of the enjoyable times they’d had. These reminders had had little effect on Kathryn. She had continued, however, into bedroom reminiscences, making Kathryn uncomfortable and slightly aroused. She knew that Bernice herself wasn’t the attraction, it was the memory of the pure excitement and utter pleasure of making love with a woman. She hadn’t thought about the physical aspect of a relationship for a long time and Bernice’s presence was bringing back memories of sensation, long ago put behind her. She’d had to lean back in her chair, needing distance between herself and Bernice.
Bernice had been pushing for a return of their relationship, a reconciliation and Kathryn had been made to feel like an object, now wrapped to look good and attractive, whereas before it had been drab and unwanted. Bernice’s complacency had rankled, her assumption that Kathryn would jump at the chance to renew their previous intimacy was insulting. Kathryn had finally been forthright with her and when Bernice had realised the futility of the exercise, she’d pulled back her chair with a flourish, to leave. As Bernice had risen Kathryn had spotted Storm on the dance-floor, in the arms of a man.
Bernice’s dramatic exit had been totally lost on Kathryn as she’d watched the man turn Storm in his arms and passionately kiss her. Kathryn’s recent reminders of her own sexual feelings, long submerged, rose to the fore and in her imagination she had pictured Storm in her own arms, the lips being crushed by her own. Her heart pounded erratically as she’d watched Storm put the man from her and go into the ‘Ladies’. With legs that were still trembling slightly from the vivid imaginings, Kathryn had followed Storm. The heavy silence that had built was broken by the figure in the mirror lifting her chin and remonstrating with her. Kathryn had recovered her equilibrium, being left only with a feeling of exhaustion brought on by the emotion of the whole evening.
Kathryn was feeling drained when she arrived home and she reasoned that her tiredness had been a factor the whole evening. Seeing Storm straight after the confrontation with Bernice had confused her feelings regarding her. She accepted that Storm was very attractive but knew that her interest in the young woman was purely professional and, had it been personal, she would have to put it down to a newly-found maternal feeling. Quite happy with this explanation, Kathryn prepared for bed and told George and Mildred all about her evening. They were suitably sympathetic and agreed with all her reasonings, as they dozed off to sleep curled up on top of her.
The man heard the tirade from Storm with a smile on his lips.
“Listen fuckhead! I don’t want to hear your fucking breathing down the phone! If you’ve got something to say – then say it and be damned. If not I’m going to hang up and leave the fucking phone off the hook!
The man smiled again, her face vivid in his mind. He’d just watched her go into her house. He didn’t know where she’d been as she’d already left when he arrived at her house earlier in the evening. He enjoyed the challenge of following her in her car. Sometimes he lost her but most times he knew exactly where she went.
“OK dickhead, I’m hanging up. Get a life, you prick!” He heard the crash in his ear as she banged the phone down. His breathing came even faster and he groaned his pleasure as his body convulsed. ‘This one’s for you, Storm! It’s all for you baby!’
Kathryn leaned her head back with a feeling of relief, tempered somewhat with a tinge of uncertainty. Had she made the right decision? Her thoughts were interrupted as her attention was drawn to the couple to her right, their hands clasped tightly. Her glance travelled upwards and she saw Storm’s eyes shut fast. Kenny was looking relaxed so Kathryn guessed that it was Storm who was feeling nervous and needed reassurance.
Kathryn questioned herself once more. Had it been the right thing to do? Just nine short days before, she’d received a phone call from the manager of Helter Skelter. He’d told her that the band had been involved in a car accident. His own son, the lead singer of the band, had sustained the most serious injuries, including a collapsed lung and ruptured spleen. Most of the band had received broken bones and bad bruising and the prognosis had been a full two months recovery period, meaning of course that they couldn’t fulfil their contract with Kathryn to go to Harare. He’d apologised to Kathryn, on their behalf, for leaving her in the lurch but his thoughts were obviously on his young charges and he couldn’t suggest an alternative act.
The idea had crept up on Kathryn in the following twelve hours. Was it ethical, she had to decide, to propose that her own clients fulfil the booking? She also had to assure herself that the band was capable of performing to the sort of clientele which frequented the ‘Crown of Harare’. If so, there was also the logistics to deal with. Did they have current passports? Could the airline tickets be transferred?
A phone call to Qantas assured her the tickets were transferable. The call to Cloud gave her the information that they did hold current passports, having all had overseas holidays the previous year and they would need booster injections only. He was excited at the prospect but a little nervous, having plenty of questions. Kathryn had arranged to meet with them to explain as many details as possible. The main points of the contract were the free airline tickets, free accommodation and meals. There would be a small fee paid but their main benefit would be the experience and the exposure. The contract would run for three weeks, from Saturday, 19th of October until Saturday 9th of November inclusive. They would leave Perth on the Wednesday before and head for home on the Tuesday following their last performance. Though they were reasonably sure that the new act was ready, they were happy for Kathryn to arrange for Reg to video their complete new repertoire the following day.
While on the telephone to the travel agent transferring the tickets, she was asked what would be happening to the fifth ticket, Helter Skelter having five members? On the spur of the moment, Kathryn had made the decision to travel with the band, justifying it to herself that it would be good research for the book and a chance to catch up with David. The band had been obviously relieved when they heard, even Storm had looked pleased.
“Hey, that’s cool kd.” she’d said dryly, with an almost straight face, “You can even change our nappies, if you like!”
The video had been impressive and Kathryn had agreed with most of the band’s choices. They would put in a few variations so as not to have the same show every night but the mixture for each performance had to be just right. Kathryn had felt vindicated at that point for her assurances to both David and Jonathon that the act was ready to perform. Now, as she sat on the African bound jet, she found herself a little worried. Not about their playing capabilities; or even Storm’s charisma, which had been compelling even on the video. No, she was mainly worried about Storm’s clothes for the act and her possible impulsive, outrageous behaviour. She hadn’t seen Storm’s new clothes, she was only hoping they would be conservative enough for the cocktail and dance bar in the ‘Crown of Harare’. After their confrontation at the Crown Hotel in Perth, they hadn’t talked at any depth and Kathryn’s temporary disturbance of mind, following that meeting, had been put aside with many plausible explanations.
The G-force of the take-off pressed Kathryn back in her aisle seat. She always enjoyed the take-off but disliked landings, as the pressure changes affected her ears, causing pain for up to 24 hours after landing. She noticed that Cloud and Jim, in the seats in front of them, had a spare seat alongside them and, on this 12-13 hour leg to Johannesburg, this seat may come in useful for someone to stretch out and get more sleep.
The plane levelled out at their cruising height and the first meal was served. Storm appeared to have recovered her equilibrium and was talking quietly with Kenny. They were travelling through the long night in this first leg so, after the movie and their second meal, they settled down for whatever sleep they could get. Cloud had suggested to Kenny that he join them to allow Kathryn and Storm more room.
Grateful to the men, Kathryn and Storm had arranged their positions, with Kathryn now in the window seat, to allow Storm to curl up on two seats.
“We can swap over later if necessary.” Kathryn had insisted to Storm so, with blankets and pillows, they settled down to try to sleep.
Kathryn awoke, instinctively knowing that she’d slept for a long time. In her earlier, semi-conscious state, she’d been aware of Storm’s restlessness but thought that her fellow traveller had been quiet and still now for quite a while. Kathryn attempted to stretch her cramped legs, only to become aware of a weight on one of them. Raising her head from the back of the seat, she saw Storm’s slumbering figure curled up on the two seats with her head in Kathryn’s lap, a pillow half under her head, half out. Kathryn’s own hand was draped over Storm’s waist, within centimetres of her left breast. ‘All I’d have to do is stretch my fingers.’ The sleepy thought brought Kathryn to full wakefulness She twisted her watch round with her other hand, so as not to lift the hand from Storm’s warm body. She was pleased and surprised to see it was already 5:45 am. She’d slept for almost six hours, which was unusual for her when flying. She noticed that some of her fellow passengers had opened their blinds, showing the first faint flush of dawn. The excitement of nearing their journey’s end was starting to build up around them, with sounds of whispers and muted laughter.
Kathryn eased up her own blind, trying not to wake Storm in the process. She saw they were still over the ocean but, even as she watched, they passed over some tiny islands, clustered together, the sand of the beach ghostly in the half-light. She guessed that they were about to cross the African coast and she felt her own excitement build at the thought of once more experiencing all the pleasures of this great continent.
She looked down at Storm’s sleeping face and her mind switched to the enigma that was Storm: the flagrant promiscuity that clashed sometimes with a touch of old-fashioned values. She thought about Storm’s outspoken and often outrageous behaviour that belied the occasional hint of serious and mature thinking. Kathryn couldn’t make her out, nor her own feelings toward the girl. She often disliked her intensely, occasionally liked her a lot – but was never indifferent to her. She always seemed to provoke some sort of reaction in Kathryn, though the fleeting attraction she’d felt, on that one occasion, had been firmly pushed aside. The visions of Storm in the arms of the man outside the lift, raising her face to his, pressing her lips to his mouth. The picture of her pushing her hips backwards into the groin of the man on the dance floor, demonstrating her blatant heterosexuality, kept intruding into Kathryn’s mind.
Now, however, as Storm’s warm breath found its way through the fabric of Kathryn’s slacks onto her thigh, warming it, transporting the tingling sensation along nerve ends towards her groin, Kathryn struggled to retain the visions, needing them for her self-preservation. ‘Stop it!’ she admonished herself, giving an involuntary jerk. Storm stirred and yawned.
“Aah!” she groaned, as she turned onto her back, stretching her legs across the aisle. Her eyes squinted open. “Oh! Hi, kd. Sorry. Have I been using you as a pillow? You should’ve kicked me off.” Kathryn smiled down at the face nestling comfortably on her lap. The sleep-flushed face looked even younger than normal and the tousled hair framed her face with unaccustomed curls.
“Angel of the morning.” She realised she’d said it out loud. Storm’s lifting head dropped down again onto Kathryn’s thighs. Her reply was very quick.
“Two versions. One American, which I don’t know. One English which was by Merrilee Rush. Not bad for this time of the morning huh?”
“No, not bad at all.” Kathryn had to laugh. “How do you feel? Refreshed?” Storm sat up and pushed the hair from her eyes. Another yawn interrupted her assent and she accompanied it with a satisfying stretch.
“Yeah, I feel really good. Bit hungry, in fact.”
“Well.” Kathryn laughed, “You won’t have to wait too long for breakfast. We’ve just crossed the African coast and the dawn is catching up with us, fast. Would you like to swap seats to look through the window?” Storm agreed with thanks and Kathryn went to freshen up in the tiny cubicle. She noticed on her return that the three men all appeared to be asleep, so she quietly slid into the seat beside Storm.
“Why are there so many fires?” Storm wanted to know.
“Bush fires, out of control. This area is so many miles from any real habitation that the fires just have to burn themselves out. Sometimes they have a front hundreds of miles wide!”
They watched in friendly silence, broken only by the occasional question or the pointing out of an unusual feature. More of the other passengers were stirring and voices were heard from the seat in front indicating that the men were now awake. Kathryn regretted the end of the fleeting harmony between herself and Storm, hoping that the rapport would continue over the next three weeks.
Breakfast consumed and cleared away, they watched the small townships change to larger towns as they prepared for the final phase of the trip. Kathryn, as usual, dreaded the descent but this time was also worried about Storm.
“Are you OK with landings?” she asked in a quiet tone. Storm shrugged, nonchalantly, assuring her that she was fine. A minute later Storm turned to her.
“Actually, that’s a lie. Landings aren’t as bad as take-offs but no, I don’t like them. Have you a spare hand I can grip if it gets too hairy?” Kathryn lifted up the hand closest to Storm.
“It’s there if you need it. Mind you, if my pain becomes unbearable you might just finish with a crushed hand!” She explained the problem she always had with landing and Storm took her hand.
“Oh, well. We’ll just have to help each other through it, hey kd?” Kathryn nodded her agreement and they clasped hands as the plane began its long descent into Johannesburg for the two-hour stopover before the final flight.
When they boarded the next flight from Johannesburg to Harare, Storm followed Kathryn into a row of seats, with Cloud joining them. Storm reached for Kathryn’s hand once more as the huge jet engines built up their revs, before hurtling down the runway. Kathryn talked to Storm throughout the take-off and Storm occasionally answered, even opening her eyes at one point. When the seat belt sign went off, Storm relaxed once more. Kathryn was curious, asking what Storm was looking forward to the most.
“Oh, everything.” Storm was expansive, her arms waving wide “Seeing the country, learning a little of the culture, playing the gigs. Just everything.” Kathryn was captivated by her show of enthusiasm. Storm continued, “I’m also looking forward to getting some full nights of sleep.” Kathryn looked questioningly at her. “Oh, it’s just these damn phone calls I keep getting. They’re a pain in the butt!”
“What phone calls?”
“Didn’t I tell you about my secret admirer? He rings at all times of the night with his deep, sexy breathing. Dickhead! He rings in the daytime too sometimes and just says my name.” Kathryn was worried.
“You didn’t tell me about him. Have you been to the police?”
“Nah. He’s harmless. I can’t be bothered.”
Cloud broke in, speaking directly to Kathryn.
“I’m not so sure. Storm thinks she’s been followed a couple of times in her car.”
“Stop fussing, Cloud. I lost him every time, didn’t I? Bloody Torana drivers think they’re so good!”
“Yes; but if it’s the guy I’ve seen hanging around outside occasionally, then he also knows where you live. Personally, I don’t like it.”
“Neither do I.” Kathryn’s brow was puckered. “I want you to report it to the police when we get back to Perth.” Memories of her own experiences made her voice sharp. Storm’s head lifted, her chin jutting out and Kathryn realised she’d put her back up once more.
“I’ll do whatever I see fit.” Storm’s voice was cool as she looked out at the ground ten thousand metres below her. Kathryn looked at Cloud and sighed. ‘Well, the peace didn’t last too long did it, Kathryn?’ she mused silently, as Storm stood and excused herself to get past Cloud. After her trip to the washroom Storm sat down next to Kenny and remained there for the rest of the flight. ‘Presumably,’ thought Kathryn, a little regretfully, ‘gripping Kenny’s hand.’ as the plane brought them safely down to land.
Storm awoke and stretched luxuriantly in the spacious bed and looked around, pleasurably. The Crown had provided her with a large room that housed two double beds. The three men had opted to share the suite, which had surprised Kathryn, who had obviously thought that Storm and Kenny would share. Kathryn was given the single room she’d occupied previously. The first week had been pretty hectic and not without the odd, small problem but they’d found David to be both friendly and helpful and Storm reflected that Kathryn always seemed very relaxed in his company, apparently on very close terms with him.
Their first couple of performances hadn’t been up to their own high expectations but the customers had certainly liked them. Storm had had to admit to herself that the band’s act was an improvement on the old performance but she was careful not to show too much approval, especially to Kathryn. In the peaceful, idyllic atmosphere of Harare, she was having to work harder to maintain her facade of rebelliousness and she was forgetting the pretence for longer and longer periods of time and, when she did remember her act, it seemed to lack substance and fire, even to herself. When they had first performed on the previous Saturday, she’d seen Kathryn look doubtfully at her wide, see-through silk pants and cut-off top that barely covered her unfettered breasts. Storm had been ready for a battle but Kathryn had delayed her comments until she’d seen the customers’ reaction and then had acceded openly that they’d obviously liked her attire. Storm had been surprised at her own relief that she didn’t have to have another clash with the other woman. ‘Must be the laid-back way of life over here.’ she’d decided.
Most of the band’s problems on the first Saturday and Sunday had come from too little rehearsal time on the new act and not communicating properly with each other on stage. They had rehearsed on Monday and Tuesday and, on the previous night, had put on a much more polished performance. Storm still thought the show was a little subdued and would’ve preferred to incorporate more ‘rock’ and more feeling in it. Kathryn’s assurances that the sound system was excellent had been proved correct and the set-up in the cocktail bar dance floor was the best Storm had seen.
As they didn’t have to play that evening and they hadn’t scheduled a rehearsal, Kathryn had arranged for them to go on a day Safari and now, as Storm showered, she felt an excitement building. Her love of all animals was certainly going to be assuaged if Kathryn’s promises proved correct. The Safari included a side trip to the Lion and Cheetah Park where they’d have the opportunity of seeing these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. There was the promise of seeing the very rare white rhinos, also giraffe, zebra and the myriad of bird life. The day promised to be fine once more, with a projected high of 28 degrees Celsius. Storm looked at her watch as she slipped it onto her wrist: almost time to go down to grab a quick breakfast before the minibus picked them up at 9 am.
Kathryn had been on this Safari before but had insisted that she had to experience it all again. Storm hadn’t seen much of Kathryn since they’d arrived the previous Thursday. She’d seemed to be spending a lot of time with David, so Storm had prowled the city with one or more of the band members, investigating all the sights. She’d found Harare fascinating, with the locals friendly and helpful, though numerous. For every job, there seemed to be three or four locals sharing it. Waiters at the hotel fell over each other trying to serve the customers.
Everything was cheap, from food and drink to transport. A taxi ride right across the city cost about ten Zim dollars, the equivalent of $1.25 Australian! The city was very clean and beautiful, with manicured parks dotted here and there. The weather had been perfect and Storm had thoroughly enjoyed her first few days. She had relaxed as she hadn’t done in years. Today, however, was going to be something special, she just knew it!
Storm met her companions in the dining room, noticing that Kathryn, like herself, was wearing shorts and top. Storm’s eyes went once more to Kathryn’s brown legs: a legacy, Kathryn had told them, of many years of tennis, summer and winter. Kathryn’s hair was loose today and Storm noted the way it cascaded over her shoulders and framed her face, making her look years younger.
David wasn’t joining them on their day trip and Storm was oddly pleased. It wasn’t that she disliked David: on the contrary she’d found him charming and friendly to them all. It was just the way he always seemed to monopolise Kathryn and take all her attention. ‘Not that I want any of Kathryn’s attention!’ Storm assured herself. The guys all liked David and she’d seen Kenny’s eyes watch him with special interest! Though the band all knew that Kenny was gay, it wasn’t an open secret. Storm mentally wished Kenny luck; thinking, with a touch of annoyance, that he apparently had a serious rival in Kathryn.
The minibus arrived on time and they piled in. There were four others on the trip beside themselves and they said good morning to the two couples, one from Britain and one non English-speaking Dutch couple. The van rattled and wheezed through the outer suburbs before it hit open road. Once in top gear it appeared to run more smoothly, so the band’s hopes were raised that they would return some time that day!
They entered the lion-park through two sets of gates and the van huffed and puffed along the track in second gear, over the small potholes for a few hundred metres. They came upon a group of cheetahs enjoying an early morning meal. Pale muzzles stained red with blood, they ignored the parked vehicle. The guide told them that their food was thrown from the back of a truck on a daily basis so there was no need for them to kill. He pointed out the pale stripes on their faces: the markings that differentiated them from leopards. Kathryn had her video camera trained on them throughout and was thrilled when they walked to within a metre of the bus.
Through another set of double gates and they were amongst the lions. The Dutch couple slid their window shut but the Australians left their rear windows open, confident that they could close them quicker than any lion could put his claws or head through! They watched the cubs playing alongside their mothers with antics as cute as any kitten. The watchful eyes of the mother made Storm quip that they looked just like Kathryn’s eyes! Kathryn laughed, too happy to take umbrage on such a lovely day. The serene, male lions looked totally at peace with the world, yawning hugely and laying back in the sun, their tails flicking at the surprisingly few flies around. Again Kathryn’s video camera was busy and the flash of cameras was constant. Storm was very quiet, absorbing the feeling, carving it into her memory. Kathryn touched her arm, making her start.
“Sorry, Storm. I just wanted you to watch this.” She pointed to where one small cub was climbing onto the back of his sibling to reach his mother. The mother would lick him and he’d fall off, only to climb on again.
“Persistent little devil, isn’t he? Not too smart, maybe; but definitely persistent. Must be a male!” Kathryn laughed her agreement and pointed her camera back to the little pantomime.
Leaving the park, they went down the road to the place the guide called the ‘nursery’. They soon found out why. There were lots of enclosures with small animals in. They small group was escorted by the ranger into a small compound that contained three lion cubs. They were introduced to Lucy, Simba and Oscar, who greeted them by rolling over and asking to have their tummies rubbed. In answer to Storm’s question, the ranger reassured the group that none of these babies had been removed from their mothers. They had all been abandoned and would have died without the care they were being given. Oscar was the pushiest of the three, as well as the largest, being seven months old and bigger than a German Shepherd. His big head lifted off the floor any time his current scratcher paused for too long. Simba put his paws around Jim’s legs and was chastised. The ranger assured them the cubs would never put their claws out but he told Simba once more that it was bad manners, just as it would be bad manners to bite!
Kathryn heard Storm softly call her name and turned to see Oscar halfway through the arch made by Storm’s legs. As Kathryn started the camera recording, Oscar turned and licked the back of Storm’s leg.
“For luck!” Kathryn told Storm as Oscar backed out again before lifting his head for Storm to scratch it. Kathryn turned the camera to Storm’s face, capturing the entranced look on her face.
They had lunch at the adjoining café and Storm was still looking enraptured. Kathryn kept looking into Storm’s face, comparing it with the slightly sulky expression that Storm normally wore, ‘or rather – used to wear!’ Kathryn realised that that particular expression hadn’t been in evidence for quite a long time. To take her mind off Storm’s looks, she asked the band in general about their feelings and opinions on the new act. The men discussed the problems they’d had and how they were getting round them. On the whole they were pleased with the way it was going. As usual, Storm didn’t join in with the general discussion and Kathryn had to ask, to get a response from the less voluble woman.
“It’s too dull. There’s not enough fast stuff. Nothing I can get my teeth into.”
“I thought ‘Black Velvet’ went down particularly well on Sunday,” Kathryn pointed out, “and ‘Gloria’ was terrific last night.”. Storm smiled.
“Yeah, it was pretty good, wasn’t it? It needs more, though. I feel I’m just standing there like a stuffed dummy.” Kathryn laughed aloud, head thrown back.
“Hardly!” Her expression changed, became serious. “Well, add some more then. Move a bit more. You haven’t done Shania Twain’s ‘Man, I feel like a woman’ yet. That was superb the night I watched you sing it.” Storm looked wary, as if she thought there was a catch.
“Are you dinkum, kd? I didn’t think you wanted any of that stuff in.”
“I think you can do the popular rock songs. In fact I think the act would benefit from incorporating them. Just nothing with really controversial lyrics, OK?”
“Hey, cool! OK guys, rehearsal tomorrow and Friday. We’re going to ‘Rock the night away’ on Friday night!”
“Just one more thing, Storm.” Kathryn tried to make use of the present feeling of cameradie. “I’ve asked you before but I’ll try again. Can you please not wander around Harare swinging a shoulder bag around. It’s OK here, of course in the bush but Harare is a poor city and your bag would have to be very tempting to some of the poorer residents.” Storm’s face closed and she turned a stony look on Kathryn.
“I’ve told you I won’t have you baby-sitting me. I think I’m quite capable of looking after my own passport, tickets and money and, if I prefer to carry them with me rather than leave them in the hotel room or safe, then that’s my decision.” Kathryn put up her hands in a placating gesture, not wanting the earlier, amicable mood to be lost.
“OK, OK, Storm. Whatever you say. Let’s forget about it now, hey?” Storm’s face was still for a while, then the eyes crinkled up as her mouth curved into a smile. “Yes. The day’s too glorious to fight. Where to, next?”
They all piled back into the minibus, noticing that the roof had now been removed, letting the golden sunshine bathe them. The guide told them they would now be entering the game-reserve that was the start of thousands of square miles of reserved land. There were no predatory animals in this area so they would see herds of animals peacefully grazing. He told them he hoped to show them the rare white rhino. He knew where they’d been the day before, so thought they may still be close by.
Storm felt the warm wind in her hair as she stood upright in the bus as it made its bumpy way along the narrow tracks. She wondered how Kathryn was coping with the camera and guessed that the video would be very shaky indeed when they watched it. They saw deer, warthogs, small groups of zebra and twice came close to a pair of black elephants. They couldn’t name half of the birds they saw and they glimpsed many animals from a distance. They passed another tour bus as the afternoon wore on and their driver asked in his deep, melodic voice if the other bus driver had spotted the rhino. The answer must have been in the affirmative because their driver pulled into an even smaller track to do a three-point turn, heading back the way they’d come, before taking a different fork. The bus was hushed as they finally spotted the rhino. The driver turned off the engine and the stillness enveloped them all, the soft whirring of Kathryn’s camera, the only sound. One of the rhino looked at them with his very small, beady eyes and gave a grunt. Obediently, the others lifted their heads from grazing and ponderously started to move away. The occupants of the bus watched as the small herd of ungainly creatures disappeared into the spinifex, wondering how long the beasts would be around for people like them to see.
The tour was over and the air was starting to chill. Storm and Kathryn remained standing, next to one another, as all the others sat down out of the breeze. They swayed with the movement of the bus, their arms touching on occasions. Storm felt the warmth of Kathryn’s arm against her own and deliberately retained the contact, enjoying the protection from the wind. They stood in silence, savouring the moment, etching it on their brains. Kathryn lifted a hand, pointed. Storm watched as the sunset burned its way through the savanna and sizzled into the horizon. As they continued to watch in awe, the young girl momentarily leaned against the older woman, her wonder at the sight making her feel small and inadequate; needing the reassuring touch of another human being. They reached the exit to the reserve and pulled onto the highway. Kathryn sighed deeply as she broke the warm contact.
“It’ll be too cold to stand now. We’d better sit.” Storm nodded, feeling too overwhelmed by all the sights to speak. They sat in silence all the way home, the hum of the conversation around them not intruding on their thoughts.
Kathryn set her alarm for 7 a.m. before preparing for bed. She was really looking forward to the following day’s excursion, a trip to see her ‘World Vision’ sponsored child in the Kasonde region. She had visited the ‘World Vision’ office when they’d first arrived, ten days before and they had promised to organise a visit for her. Obert Gwazo, the office manager had told her that a car would be travelling up there soon so, if she and her companions would like to visit, he would arrange it. Early on the previous Friday, she’d received a phone call from Letitia Mushangwe, whom she’d met on her last visit. Letitia had told her that a four-wheel drive would be travelling to the community on Monday and if Kathryn and up to three of her friends would like to go with them, they’d be most welcome.
David had already professed a wish to go with her so she’d asked the band if anyone would like to join her. She’d seen the interest light up Storm’s eyes but the young woman had remained silent. Kathryn had told them that David was going with her and Kenny said he’d be keen to go. Cloud and Jim hadn’t look too enthused and Kathryn had gladly turned to Storm.
“Storm, I’m sure you’d enjoy it. How about coming along for the ride? Give me some female company.” Storm had lifted one shoulder with a touch of nonchalance.
“Yeah, I’ll come along. Should be interesting. Tell me about it.”
“Tell you what – I’ll explain all about it on the way. It’s a long drive, apparently. Two hours of sealed road to the nearest town, Chinhoyi, then at least an hour’s drive on an unsealed road to the project and the Kasonde school where Letween, my sponsored child, goes.”
Kathryn climbed into her comfortable bed and thought, with pleasure, about the day ahead. She always enjoyed her time with David and she’d found Kenny to be pleasant company. Her heart raced a little, however, at the thought of spending the full day with Storm. She’d tried to avoid being with her too much over the last few days, as her close proximity disturbed too much. Ever since they’d stood, arms touching, in the minibus, Kathryn had been aware of Storm as never before. She’d watched her performance on Friday night and she’d joined the male population in the room in their mass arousal. Storm’s movements had been mesmerising and provocative; but this time showing taste. She’d looked stunning in a sequin dress, with both stomach and lower back exposed. Her rendition of ‘Man, I feel like a Woman’ had brought the house down. Another song, which Kathryn hadn’t heard before, also received a great ovation. Kathryn had found out later that it was Storm’s own composition and Kathryn marked it down for inclusion on the band’s demo tape.
They climbed into the four-wheel drive Jeep at 7.30 the following morning, with David occupying the front seat and Kenny, Storm and Kathryn in the back. Once they were under way, Kathryn told them of the Kasonde project that was to supply water to the Mupfure Communal Lands which included the school and about ninety families in the area. It had provided dams, bore holes and a windmill. The project had also built classrooms and teachers’ accommodation, to attract the qualified teachers back to the rural areas It had organised a pre-school which now provided the young children with nutritional food and the project also provided some training courses.
Kathryn told the others that Letween had been her sponsored child for eighteen months and this was their first meeting. She’d brought some gifts for the school from Australia and some dresses and toys for Letween. The driver told them that after he’d made his deliveries to the school, he would be able to drive them to Letween’s house, which was four kilometres in a straight line but a few more by following the tracks.
They stopped off at a supermarket in Chinhoyi to pick up some fresh groceries as a gift to Letween’s family and to use the last toilet facilities for a long while. As they left the town, they also left behind the electricity and the telegraph posts. The bitumen road lasted for about two kilometres before it dwindled out into pot-holed red dirt. They made reasonable time at first as the four-wheel drive vehicle dealt easily with the ruts and ridges in the road. After about half an hour on the unsealed road the driver pulled to the side of the road. David looked questioningly at him. The driver said in his sing-song voice that it was no problem, just a puncture. They all piled out and Storm and Kathryn immediately went to the rear of the vehicle to help get out the spare and the tools. David and Kenny stood to one side, talking quietly while Kathryn and Storm loosened the wheel-nuts as the driver used the jack. The three of them man-handled the heavy wheel off and replaced it with the spare. The driver laughed and said they’d all have to pray they didn’t get another puncture as there was only one spare!
Within fifteen minutes they were moving again. Storm and Kathryn had used an old rag to wipe their hands. Kenny and David congratulated them on their endeavours, showing no shame at their lack of assistance.
“We knew you had it under control.” was David’s only comment.
Storm was interested in the carts they saw, each one being pulled by a bullock. She was also fascinated by the small dwellings which were set back from the road, pointing each one out as they passed them by. The driver told them that Letween’s family had a similar cluster of huts for their home. They pulled into the ‘World Vision’ office in Kasonde and were welcomed by the staff there. Letween and her father were also part of the welcoming committee and Kathryn gave Letween a hug, smiling reassuringly into the shy face. Kathryn was surprised when she saw Storm’s eyes glisten as she also bent down to give Letween a tight hug and to run a hand over the very closely cropped hair. They were shown to the school, where they met the headmaster, a Sydney Poitier look-alike. Chickens scattered as they moved around the school compound and Kathryn saw Storm looking round in wonder and delight. Kathryn made her donations to the school, amongst which were half a dozen soccer balls. The gifts were very well received by the 200 students, who had lined up for the ceremony. Having extra good soccer skills was sometimes the only way a young boy could break free from the circle of poverty in Zimbabwe. All the students sang a thank you song that brought a lump to Kathryn’s throat. Storm, who was using Kathryn’s camera to record it all, zoomed in for a close-up of Kathryn’s face and, through the viewer, watched her throat convulse as she tried to hold back her tears, the emotion at their response overwhelming her.
Letween was allowed to leave school early to accompany them in the vehicle to her home. The going was treacherous and the Jeep leaned over from one side to the other on the narrow dirt track. The driver took them as close to the group of huts as he could get and his usual smile was missing as he turned off the engine.
“I think we have a puncture.” He said to nobody in particular.
“Yeah, right!” Storm laughed, “Try to scare us, why don’t you?” The driver still didn’t smile and, as they jumped down to the ground they heard an ominous hiss. They stood and watched as the front tyre started to sink.
“Would chewing gum help?” Storm’s practicality came to the fore.
“Maybe.” The driver’s face was hopeful. Storm grabbed a piece from her bag and started chewing. She pulled it from her mouth and the driver took it, placing it over the tiny hole in the rubber. The hissing stopped momentarily but they could all see the chewing gum starting to lift. Kathryn had a thought. She went to her bag and took from her purse a small curved object that was wide at one end, then went to a point.
“What about this?” she asked. The driver looked at the miniature tusk taken, for safe keeping, from the small, black elephant that Kathryn had bought the day before. He said it looked perfect and they all watched as the tusk was pushed into the hole, filling it, with the widest bit sticking out a little.
“Way to go, kd. You’ve saved our lives. Let’s go and meet Letween’s family before this thing” she slapped the Jeep’s bonnet, “sprouts another leak!”
They scrambled down the slope and were invited into the biggest of the buildings. It was round, with concrete walls and a thatch roof. It had a diameter of about three to four metres and part of the inside space was taken up with a concrete bench which ran three quarters of the way round. In the middle, there was a rush mat and they learned that this was used as bed, chair and table. The family were all congregated, Letween, her mother, father, older sister and younger brother. They had organised a meal of chicken in gravy with a vegetable that looked a little like mashed potato, with very little taste. They were given a dish each and they followed the lead of the family by using their fingers and thumb to roll a little of the vegetable into a ball, before dipping it in the gravy and eating it.
Letween was delighted with her dresses and, immediately after the meal, tried one on, unconcerned with the fact that it was back to front and showed an expanse of flat chest. Storm gently showed her the right way to wear it and Kathryn was touched to see Storm and Letween sitting with hands clasped, the young girl staring up at Storm with admiring eyes. Kathryn caught Storm’s eye and winked at her, receiving a rather bashful smile in return. Letween’s mother was grateful for the fresh provisions and thanked Kathryn, holding her two hands within her own. Kathryn was a little embarrassed by the show of gratitude and, as she looked to one side, she caught an answering wink from Storm, making her chuckle.
The driver arrived in the hut with a sombre look.
“I am sorry, it did not work. The tyre is very flat. I have to go with Letween’s father to try to find another tyre. He thinks there may be one at a dwelling some distance from here.”
“Does anyone have vehicles around here?” David asked incredulously.
“No.” The driver was honest, “The only vehicle is the headmaster’s: but Letween’s father thinks that someone may have a wheel.” David looked sceptical and concerned looks passed between the intrepid adventurers.
After sitting in the hut for half an hour, Kathryn suggested they make their way up the hill, back to the vehicle.
“It’ll let these people get back to their own jobs and at least we’ll be there when the driver gets back, to find out what’s going on.” It made sense to the others so they said their good-byes and climbed the steep hill back to the Jeep. David and Kenny wandered off down the track and Kathryn and Storm sat under the shade of a tree. Kathryn didn’t want to spoil the growing friendship but she was worried and wanted to discuss with Storm the matter of the stalker. Firstly, however, she asked a question.
“You like children? You want to have some?”
“Yes, I love kids” Storm answered, a serious expression on her face, “but I don’t know if I’d want to have any – not unless the home environment was right. Not like ….” she hesitated then stopped, seemingly with an effort. “Oh, forget it. I don’t want to talk about it.” Kathryn waited awhile, then changed the subject; needing to persuade Storm of her possible danger.
“I know you won’t want to talk about this. However, please listen to me. It’s about this stalker.” She paused, seeking the words needed to convince Storm. “You think at the moment that it’s just a nuisance but it could be more than that. It could be dangerous.”
“How – dangerous? It’s just a weird guy with an attitude. Why are you so uptight about it?” Storm was smiling but Kathryn was in earnest.
“I’m ‘uptight’, as you call it, because I’ve experienced something similar: and, Storm, it was definitely dangerous. It could have been fatal!” Storm’s interest was caught.
“Why? What happened? What did he do? Did he attack you or what?” Kathryn felt her face become warm and she looked down, feeling that her every word was a weapon that could be used against her in the future.
“It wasn’t a ‘him’, it was a ‘her’: and, though it was me she was stalking, I wasn’t the one who was attacked; it was a ….friend of mine.”
“Who was she? Why was she following you?” Storm was insistent on details. Kathryn watched her own foot kick the small stones that surrounded them, as she explained to Storm.
“I was a lecturer and she was a student. I don’t know why she chose me to follow.” A small white lie didn’t seem amiss at this point. “I laughed it off at the time, just as you’re doing now. A friend advised me to go to the police but I was stubborn.” Kathryn looked up at Storm, her meaning obvious. “This was the friend who was then threatened with a knife and it was only lucky circumstances that took me there at that time so, together, we were able to overpower her. My friend could’ve died because I thought it was just a nuisance.” Kathryn found herself reluctant to admit that this ‘friend’ was actually the Bernice that Storm had met.
Kathryn saw Storm’s watchful eyes looking at her, trying to read between the lines, Kathryn was sure. Storm pondered the information for a while, her head slightly to one side and a small furrow between her eyes. She finally spoke.
“I can see why the idea of a stalker would worry you after that experience. Your friend? Was she…or he, all right?”
“Yes, we were lucky. Nobody was hurt. The girl was charged and I’ve never seen her since. Another person may not be as lucky though.” Kathryn’s habitual way of speaking in a non-gender specific form about her past life and loves was used yet again. Storm was still watching her, not giving any hints as to her thoughts. Kathryn went over the words she’d used and was confident she hadn’t given any clues to Storm of her previous sexuality. She was content that she’d sown the seeds of possible danger in Storm’s mind and, as she hadn’t been looking for a promise from Storm, she smiled with satisfaction and asked Storm to think about it at least; and she wouldn’t bring the subject up again.
There was still no sign of the driver and Letween’s father. Kenny and David had disappeared down the track to look out for their return. Storm asked Kathryn what would happen if they couldn’t find a wheel. Kathryn said that she rather thought they may be stuck there for the night as it was already nearly sundown. Kathryn supposed that, the next day, someone would go to borrow the headmaster’s car and they would be taken to Chinhoyi at least. Storm screwed up her face.
“It didn’t look as if it would be too comfortable to sleep on those rush mats, I think I’d opt for the Jeep.”
“Yes, I think I’d join you. We’d just have to …..” The sound of voices halted their conversation and, as they watched, Kenny and David came around a bend, followed by the driver. He was carrying a wheel but, on examination, Kathryn wasn’t too hopeful.
“OK, it’s a wheel but look at it! It’s half the width of the proper tyres, there’s absolutely no tread on it. Will it even fit the vehicle?” The driver said it would fit but he was looking doubtful whether it would make it over the unsealed road. His suggestion was that they drive to the school and see if the spare from the headmaster’s four wheel drive would fit. This seemed the most sensible idea, so they put the wheel on with Storm shaking her head pessimistically. The tyre seemed to retain its shape, so they piled into the vehicle and the driver nursed it back over the rough road, their hearts in their mouths every time the whole weight went over that particular wheel. Arriving at the school, they were disappointed to find the wheels incompatible, one rim having six nuts, the other, five. A decision had to be made; either sleep there the night, or attempt to make the journey, at least to Chinhoyi. They knew it would be inconvenient for the headmaster to lose his transport for a day or two, so couldn’t ask to borrow his vehicle. They decided to take a chance. The wheel had held up over the roughest part of the journey, so they hoped it would manage the rest.
They set off slowly, with the driver still taking it very tentatively. The sun had already disappeared and the short twilight was coming to an end which made driving even harder. They were soon in total darkness, the only lights for miles around were the Jeep’s headlights. The going became even slower and they realised that, if the tyre made it at all, it was going to take them at least two hours to reach the town. Talking became sporadic, words only whispered. Everyone was watchful and nobody felt like sleeping. They all kept taking surreptitious looks at the odometer to check the distance still to go. The Jeep sloughed off to one side at one time and the occupants thought that their gamble had failed. The driver said no, it wasn’t the tyre, he’d had to avoid a small animal that had been mesmerised by the headlights. Storm’s hand found Kathryn’s in the darkness and it was squeezed gently in reassurance. Kathryn leaned across and whispered in a reassuring tone.
“I really think we may make it, you know.” She touched her forehead. “Touch wood, I think that bit of rubber is going to surprise us all.”
Half an hour later, Kathryn was proved right and they pulled into an hotel in Chinhoyi for the driver to use the phone and for them all to have a very welcome drink. Though it was only 8.30 p.m., they’d found no garage facilities in town that could fix their punctures, so they had decided that, once they’d finished their drink, they would continue on the highway for as long as they could. A ‘World Vision’ car had been dispatched from Harare to meet up with them and escort them back to the hotel. At 11 p.m., the Jeep pulled up outside the Crown and dropped off the four weary passengers, who all looked at the front offside wheel with amazement. The scruffy, bald tyre was still there, still intact, the air still trapped inside. Storm touched it with her foot.
“Thanks, pal. We owe you!”
Storm watched the back view of Kenny and David as they walked through the door to the hotel and realised she’d let her charade with Kenny slip a little. She decided she would have to spend more time with him to keep the pretence going in Kathryn’s mind. Kenny had been going out rather a lot himself in the last few nights and, though he hadn’t confided in her, she thought he might have met someone. She hoped he wouldn’t get his heart broken with a holiday romance. She’d helped him recover from many disastrous affairs with completely inappropriate men, over the years. She hoped he would soon find a partner he could settle down with, even though it would leave her a little more vulnerable. She determined to have one of their regular heart to heart talks as soon as possible.
The man slammed the phone down.
“Where the fuck are you?” He asked, looking around the empty room as if for an answer. He’d rung her continuously for the last week and not even got the answering machine! He’d stood outside her home on numerous occasions without getting the reward of seeing her. She’d just disappeared – along with the rest of the band. He’d found out that all their gigs had been cancelled. “What the hell is going on?” His voice had an edge to it, irrational anger gripping him.
He lay on the bed remembering the evening she’d spent with him, her body rubbing up to his, her lips millimetres from his own. She’d wanted him. Oh, yes! She’d wanted him. His face contorted as he heard again her careless comment in the car park that she had decided to drive herself home after all as she was ‘bloody tired’. He’d been livid! All his mates had known he was going to have her that night. It was his turn! He’d been damned if he was going to tell them he’d missed out – that he was the only one not to get a piece of her. He’d told everyone the next day that they’d fucked themselves silly all night. Whereas, in reality, he’d followed her home and sat in his car until the early hours of the morning!
His anger disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. He smiled.
“We’ll get together soon, my love. You’re going to love every minute of it. Hurry back from wherever you are – come home soon, to poppa!
Storm dressed for the Wednesday evening’s performance in a new outfit, bought that day. She’d loved the figure hugging hipster pants, thanking her genes once more for the slim hips and legs! Her skimpy top clung to her upper body like a second skin, emphasising her figure and reaching down to just above the navel. She flung on the colourful, African shirt she’d also bought that day, liking its native look. She knew that Kathryn would love the shirt, she was only hoping she’d love the top, too. Storm was honest with herself: she knew that she was starting to dress to impress, though sometimes shock, Kathryn; wanting, even needing, her attention.
Storm’s thoughts over the last couple of days had been monopolised by Kathryn, even though she’d seen little of her. She’d been thinking of Kathryn’s stalker, realising that she must have been infatuated. She wondered what it would feel like to be infatuated with another woman and had tried to put herself in the unknown woman’s shoes. Only this evening, Storm had looked at Kathryn across the dining table, studying her face, her body. What would it be like to stroke that face, kiss those lips? They would be soft and they’d part slightly in invitation. What about her shoulders, her breasts? What would they be like to touch, stroke or gently squeeze? Storm had found her breathing had become short and fast as her imagination took over. Even later, as she was dressing, she felt again the charged beat of her heart, surely stronger than normal! Storm looked at the reflection of her flushed face and shining eyes with exasperation. ‘Why have these feelings now, for God’s sake? You’ve had plenty of opportunities for them in the past. Why now? Why her? Pull yourself together, girl. We ain’t going nowhere, that way!’
There was a knock on her door.
“Come in. It’s open.” she called. The door opened and David walked in, a frown forming on his ruggedly handsome face.
“Storm! For goodness sake, don’t call that out! In fact, I would much rather you kept the door locked. It could’ve been anyone knocking.” Storm batted her eyelashes and assumed a seductive look, speaking in a provocative, husky voice.
“If there’s a chance of a hunky guy like you walking in – why wouldn’t I? I’d be mad to keep you out!” David grinned, recognising Storm’s play-acting and following suit.
“And if I hadn’t already lost my heart, I’d be locking the door right now – from the inside!” Storm laughed but kept the snippet of information, playfully given as it was, for further thought.
“Well, now you’ve broken my heart you can tell me what I can do for you.”
“It’s a favour, actually.” David grinned again at Storm’s raised eyebrows. “No, not that sort of favour!” he continued, “You know that the African American convention is here in Harare next week?” Storm nodded.
“Yes. I’ve been hearing all about it from some of your reception staff. It’s going to be huge, I gather.”
“Yes, enormous. They’re coming from every African nation, along with a big contingent from the USA. That’s actually my problem. We’ve been asked to accommodate another twenty guests. I can fit most of them in with a little rearranging but I’m short one room. It’s for a couple, and they would be able to happy with a double bed in a single room. My request is that you allow Kathryn to share this room, as there are two double beds here.” Storm hesitated, her recent thoughts fresh in her mind but she knew what her answer would have to be – was always going to be.
“Yes, of course that’s OK. Is Kathryn all right with it?”
“I haven’t actually asked her yet.” David answered ruefully, “I know she’d say it was an imposition to ask you, so I wanted your OK first; then I can put it to her as a ‘fait accompli’.” He looked at Storm’s doubtful face. “Oh I see! You mean, would she be OK about sharing? Yes, she’ll be fine. She’ll always do anything to help me. She’s a terrific woman, you know. Hey! – I love your outfit by the way. Do you mind if I just ….?” He leaned forward and altered the tie around the waist of the shirt, to allow it to fall more gracefully. “There! That’s better. See you downstairs in a while. I’m going to take Kathryn to the ‘Safari’ night-club later. I’ll talk to her then. We’ll watch you guys first, though. Have a good time up there on stage, tonight.” With a last wave he walked out of the room, calling as he started down the passage.
“Lock the bloody door!!”
“One, two three four.” Storm paced the beat with her hand and launched into ‘Gloria’, giving it an extra something as she usually did with this, Kathryn’s favourite song. She reached the chorus once more.
‘Gloria, don’t you think it’s funny
If everybody wants you
why isn’t everybody ca.a.alling’ She pulled at the tie on her shirt, watching Kathryn’s reactions.
‘You don’t have to answer
leave them hanging on the li..i..i..ne
Morning Gloria’. She slipped off the shirt and heard the collective ‘aahh’ from the room as her tight top emphasised the bounce of her breasts, as she danced across the stage.
‘Will you marry for the money
take a lover in the afternoon
feel your innocence slipping away
don’t believe it’s coming back soon
Now, you really don’t remember
was it something that they said
all the voices in your head
morning Gloria . a a’.
Storm could see Kathryn’s eyes riveted on her, seemingly following the sway of her breasts. She felt a tingle as she became aware of her hardened nipples, straining against the slightly coarse, dimpled fabric.
‘I think you’ve got to slow down
before you start to blow it
I think you’re heading for a breakdown
be careful not to show it
The song finished in a crescendo, Storm’s arms wide, legs apart, head thrown back. The sound of whistles and clapping were reward for her performance. Her eyes strayed once more at Kathryn, alone for once at the bar. Storm winked, for Kathryn alone. Kathryn lifted a hand in acknowledgment before joining in the applause.
The room filled steadily as the Stormclouds played for another hour or so and the dance floor became crowded. Storm caught a very quick glimpse of David, who gave her a thumbs-up sign, either at the performance, the packed room – or both.
When they’d finished and packed away, Storm was still on an adrenalin-induced high.
“Who’s for partying on?” she asked the others. “Let’s go to the ‘Safari’ club. Jim and Cloud agreed with alacrity, the hype of the performance still making their pulses race, needing an outlet. Storm was surprised when Kenny was also enthusiastic, as he’d made himself scarce after most performances and, for that matter, most other evenings. Storm still hadn’t had the planned talk with him and she hoped that his willingness to go out with them wasn’t a sign that the new romance had died.
They arrived at the ‘Safari’ soon after midnight and tried to adjust their eyes to the dim light. Storm bought drinks for them all, choosing a water for herself. They found a space against one wall, putting their drinks on the ledge provided. The strobe lights kicked in, making it difficult to pick out individuals on the floor, or the surrounding area.
“Come. Dance.” Jim shouted above the volume of the music, taking Storm’s hand. Relations between Storm and Jim had improved considerably since arriving in Zimbabwe. She guessed it was her more mellow attitude that Jim found easier to deal with, as opposed to her previous aggression. Consequently he’d been less chauvinistic and had been more enjoyable to work with; with fewer clashes between them.
“Yeah, sure – if you can keep up!”
“Just watch me!” he grinned.
They danced, with Kenny joining them on occasions. Storm saw Cloud using his famous charm on a girl who was sitting at the bar and, a while later, saw them dancing together. Kenny left the floor for a break and Storm glimpsed him, through the crowd, talking to someone she couldn’t see. ‘Maybe he’s found Kathryn and David.’ Storm hoped. She tried to look but couldn’t see past a tight-knit group of revellers. When thirst drove them from the dance floor, she still hadn’t caught sight of the couple she was looking for: either on the dance floor or it’s surroundings.
They found Kenny with fresh drinks ready for them.
“I thought you’d have had it, round about now. There you go guys.” He handed the drinks to them. “Have a squiz at that.” he nodded towards the dance floor
“Jesus!” Jim exclaimed, while Storm was still looking around the dance floor. “Over there.” Jim pointed and Storm saw the unmistakable back view of Kathryn and, over her shoulder, a gyrating David.
Storm could understand Jim’s exclamation. The two of them were ‘dirty dancing’, in a tiny pocket of space and it was possibly the best display that Storm had ever seen. David’s hand was resting on Kathryn’s hip, her hands lightly around his waist. David’s legs were slightly spread, Kathryn’s body fitting snugly against his groin. They were moving, swaying, rotating, against and with each other: the slow, steady beat of Lenny Kravitz’s ‘American Woman’ dictating their rhythm.
As Storm watched; David, with hips still circling, slid his body down; down past Kathryn’s stomach, her thighs, never losing contact with the swaying form pressed up against of him. Kathryn’s hands were now resting on David’s shoulders, her head was thrown back, her eyes closed, lips slightly parted. He slowly moved back up her, the friction of his body drawing her shirt up, showing a tantalising glimpse of white.
Storm’s heart was pounding, her legs feeling weak. Their movements were hypnotic, arousing. Kathryn’s head dropped forward, meeting the top of the ascending head and, as he slowly straightened, her lips burned a trail down David’s face as it came level with her, then rose above her. David suddenly spun Kathryn around, his pelvis now against her back. His fingers lay lightly on her waist before flexing, pulling her closer to the rhythm of his hips. His arms encircled her body, not quite touching her, his cupped hands crossed over her chest, tantalisingly close to her breasts. Storm’s thoughts were in turmoil, conflicting desires battling – not wanting David’s hands to close the gap but, at the same time, willing his hands closer; imagining they were her own, getting ever nearer; her fingers grazing the swellings, filling her palms with their heaviness.
The song came to an end and Kathryn’s head leaned back, resting on David’s chest. His head came forward and he lightly pressed his lips to Kathryn’s. The small crowd that had backed off, allowing them space, clapped briefly in appreciation and the couple smiled their acknowledgment.
“Jesus Christ!” Jim repeated, not finding any new expletives. “Whatever happened to the up-tight broad who became our manager?” Storm looked at Kathryn’s loosened hair, her face flushed from dancing: the laughing expression as she hugged David as they walked from the dance-floor and she wondered the same. Bernice had hinted at an elusively different, exciting Kathryn behind the cool, business-like facade. Storm was intrigued; and hungered to know what secrets were hidden behind that rather haughty exterior. A song came unbidden into her head and she sang softly, beneath her breath.
‘Where do you go to
when you’re alone
in your bed
tell me the thoughts
that surround you
I want to
look inside your head’
Feeling a little like a voyeur, Storm did not want to be seen by Kathryn. She didn’t want Kathryn to know she had watched their intimate performance. Storm asked Jim and Kenny if they were ready to go. Kenny looked at her with a hint of perplexity. She ignored the ‘why now?’ look in his eyes, stating flatly that she was really tired. They accompanied her back to the Hotel and Kenny saw her up to her room.
“Did you want to have that talk now?” he asked with concern.
“No, not now. I’m too tired.” She gave him a wan smile, “Can we make it tomorrow, my love?”
“Yeah, sure. You sleep well now.” Kenny closed the door, leaving her alone and confused. Her groin was still enveloped in heat. Her skin was electric shards of excitement, powering their way down through her legs, up again through her body, leaving her fingers tingling. She looked at her hands in disbelief.
“I wanted to ….! I really wanted to touch …..!” She took a steadying breath and, honest with herself as ever, admitted into the darkness. “I wanted to be the one to touch her breasts. I wanted it to be me, pressed up against her, feeling her body with mine. For God’s sake, I wanted it to be me who was kissing her! What the hell is that supposed to mean?” She didn’t know. She couldn’t think. She didn’t want to put any words, or names to it just then. She could only feel – a need, an emptiness – ‘but for what?’
Kathryn was finding it hard to keep the mantle of her chosen persona wrapped around her, here in Zimbabwe. How could she possibly wear the business suits, her armour, here in this relaxed atmosphere. Even to keep her hair up had become an unwanted chore; and her make-up had been sorely neglected. When she’d been here before, she’d been able to be herself but now, with her clients in such close proximity, she knew she should still be wearing her robe of sophistication; but it was getting harder for her because, as each day passed, it was feeling more like a veneer. Kathryn knew she was basically on holiday, so had a good excuse to relax; but she was feeling that ‘Kathryn the Executive’ was disappearing little by little and she was scared that she wouldn’t be able to drag the adopted image back again, once she’d lost it.
Aside from keeping an eye on her charges and occasionally showing them the sights, Kathryn was spending a couple of hours of each day writing notes for the upcoming book. Her memory of past cases was very good and apart from exact dates and names, which in this case weren’t wanted anyway, her recall was absolute. She was recounting their transformations in a humorous, anecdotal way and the actual clients were unrecognisable. She had made numerous notes on her present assignment and these would continue to grow. Her intention was to intersperse the changing of the ‘Stormclouds’ image with many others. She did want to have them as an underlying theme throughout the book, however.
She was happy with the way things were going both with the book and with ‘Stormclouds’. Their adaptation to the new roles had been smoother than she’d anticipated. The only doubt that persisted pertained to Storm. Though she’d been much more subdued since she’d been in Zimbabwe, there was the risk that, back in Perth with old friends, she may revert back to her old way of life. It was getting more and more difficult; but Kathryn could still recall metal images of Storm in the arms of various men and her old stage performances. The promiscuity of her private life could become too tempting for her to be able to resist. Kathryn had noted that Storm and Kenny had seemed to have broken their romantic connection and, though there’d been no hint of anyone here in Harare interesting Storm, Kathryn was under no illusions that Storm had in any way reformed her old ways.
The last couple of days had been very trying for Kathryn. Wherever she went Storm seemed to be there. Her nerves were frayed as she fought to submerge her growing attraction for the Storm she was seeing at present. On frequent occasions, Storm had touched her: sometimes her arm, sometimes a hand. One time, she had brushed some crumbs from the corner of Kathryn’s mouth and it was all she could do, to refrain from clutching the hand, holding it against her lips. Storm’s obvious intelligence had started to peep through her flippant way of speaking and they’d had a few interesting and intriguing conversations, including the one earlier in the day, on homosexuality: whether one was born with the proclivity or whether circumstances dictated it. Storm had appeared very open to opinions, very interested to hear what the others had to say. The whole band had been there, as well as David: and she’d had to be very circumspect with her comments.
Kathryn was apprehensive about sharing Storm’s room starting from that night. David had asked her, earlier in the week and she had tried to think of alternatives but David had pre-empted her by asking Storm first. Apparently Storm had been quite agreeable about it.
“And while you’re there,” David had suggested, “can you try to get her to be a little more safety conscious. Like locking the door; and not carrying that bloody shoulder bag with her when she goes around the town!”
“Don’t I know it!” Kathryn had sighed. “I’ve warned her about it. I can’t do anything else, can I?”
Saturday had arrived all too quickly and she now had to adjust to living in a much more intimate way with Storm for the next week. ‘I’ll just have to organise some sort of routine so that we’re not in the room together too much.’ was her good intention. However, she was not in the sole position to dictate. Storm had other ideas!
Storm looked forward to the night with a kind of nervous anticipation. She’d had trouble concentrating all day; and now that she was on stage, for the first time in her memory, she just wanted the performance to be finished. The floor was packed and she’d tried out her new song, which had gone down very well. At the rehearsals that the band held every couple of days, she’d also tried a couple of other songs – slow, sultry ballads that the band had vetoed for their performance. She hadn’t told them that they were for a private performance only – for Kathryn!
She had gone for a walk with Kenny a couple of days previously and had quizzed him about his new man, asking if he was still around. Being assured that he was still very much around, Storm had raised her eyebrows a little, inquisitively.
“Well, tell me all about him then.” Kenny had blushed.
“I’d love to, Storm.” He looked apologetically at his friend. “But this man means a lot to me and I haven’t had the OK from him to tell anyone. Do you mind? I’m sure it will be all right to tell you guys but I need to check with him first.” Storm had accepted it instantly, knowing the importance of trust between both lovers and friends.
“Not that I’ve had any lovers!” She’d murmured as Kenny had turned away, to buy them both ice-cream cones. When he came back, she’d been unusually inquisitive. “You know. I’ve never asked you before. How did you know you were gay? – and when was it? Do you wish you were straight?”
“OK! OK! One question at a time, hey? Firstly; I knew I was gay when I was forever getting a hard-on when I was around the school footy team, especially in the change rooms!”
“But you were on the school footy team!” Storm had objected.
“Why do you think that was?” Kenny had said with a leer, “You didn’t think it was the thrill of kicking a ball around and getting dirty, did you?” Storm had laughed aloud at the picture it conjured: a dirty Kenny chasing a big ruckman, with ne’er a ball in sight!
“Your second question was ‘when did I know?’ if I remember correctly. Well Storm, to tell you the truth, it was at a very early age but I did try to quell it. I even had sex with a girl once ….!”
“What! Who? You never told me! Here I was thinking you were a pedigree ‘poof’ and you’re telling me you batted for your own side once! What’s the world coming to?” By this time they were rolling around on the grass of the park, laughing and wrestling. Kenny had put up his hand for silence.
“Your final question was ……What was it?” Storm had stopped laughing, becoming serious.
“Kenny, do you ever regret your lifestyle? Have you ever wished you were ‘straight?” Kenny had matched her seriousness.
“No, Storm. I’ve never regretted my lifestyle. I am what I am. You’ve helped me more than I can ever say; but, even without your help, and hard as it would have been, I would never have wished to be other than the way I am.” Storm had looked at him, her questions answered — but not answered. She’d seen that it was right for him; but — what about her, what about all these feelings that had been growing towards Kathryn. ‘Could she be…..?. Would it? Could it? Be right for her?’
She’d squeezed his hand, before changing the subject, saying as casually as she could.
“It looks like Kathryn and David are an item, going by that hot dance last night. What do you …..? What’s the matter? What’re you laughing about?” She’d punched his arm. “Stop laughing, you big fairy! Tell me what’s so funny!” Kenny had wiped the tears from his eyes, still chuckling.
“OK. I’ll tell you. I’m certain he won’t mind. Promise on your honour you won’t say anything!” He’d demanded. Storm had crossed her hands across her chest.
“Cross my heart. What?” Kenny became serious, his eyes holding Storm’s.
“David is my new man, Storm.” Storm had looked perplexed, her head slowly shaking from side to side. Her lips had tightened and she’d stood up, hands on hips.
“And he’s leading Kathryn on! I’ll …” Kenny had broken into more laughter, fuelling Storm’s anger.
“No, no, no, Storm! That’s not the way it is. Kathryn knows. She’s always known. That’s why they get on so well, what with her …..” He’d stopped abruptly, looking like he wished he could draw the words back. She’d prompted.
“What with her ….what?” Kenny had looked uncomfortable and stayed silent. “What with her being gay as well? Is that what you’re trying so hard not to say?” Kenny had looked down. “I’m right aren’t I? If you don’t tell me I’ll go straight to her and ask her!” Aghast at the thought, Kenny had capitulated.
“Christ, Storm, don’t do that!’ He took a calming breath. “Yes. That is what I meant. Please don’t use it against her. I like her and I don’t like to see you two in conflict all the time.”
“Oh, we’re not in conflict, my boy. We’re certainly not in conflict.” Storm’s thoughts had been miles away, a small smile touching her lips. Kenny had looked at her searchingly but she’d changed the subject, telling him it was time to return to the hotel for rehearsal.
On the walk back, Storm had been thoughtful and, just before joining the others, she’d requested a favour.
“I know you’ve just told me about David but could you ask David not to say anything, specifically to Kathryn, about the two of you. If she was to learn that you were gay, she’d know our affair was all a sham and she’d start wondering.”
“Sure, Storm. I wouldn’t let you down. However, I think that Kathryn would like to know your reputation was completely false.” She’d leaned over and kissed his cheek with affection, without answering.
The performance finished finally and Storm helped the men pack away with barely concealed impatience. She hadn’t seen Kathryn for the last half of the show, though David was still there, helping to clear away.
“Where’s Kathryn, do you know?” she asked David, casually. “She moved in to my room today, I was wondering what time she was likely to be in.”
“Oh, she’s already there.” David replied, “She had a bit of a headache so she said she was going up early to try to get a good night’s sleep.” Storm felt the disappointment hollow out her stomach but spoke calmly.
“Now that I know, I’ll be as quiet as I can when I head up there. I could do with an early-ish night myself.” She looked at her watch. “Mind you it’s 12.30 a.m. already, I may toddle off there myself. G’night all. See you tomorrow.” Storm took the lift to the third floor and walked to her room. She inserted her key quietly and slipped into the room, noting that her bedside light had been switched on for her. She looked at the still form on the adjacent bed and she sighed, partly with relief but mostly with disappointment. She still wasn’t ready to open up and be completely honest with Kathryn about her past but she had wanted to explore her own emotions towards her. She showered and got into her bed, in her normal T-shirt and briefs. The night lay before her and the expected sleeplessness eventuated. She was still tossing and turning at three o-clock in the morning; thinking of her actions over the last day and a half.
Wanting Kathryn to notice her and be aware of her in a way she hadn’t been before, Storm had taken every opportunity to innocuously touch her. She felt that the time she’d touched Kathryn’s face, she’d almost got a response. Storm thought about the discussion they’d all had that day about gays. Both Kathryn and David, along with Kenny, had been of the opinion that it was something one was born with. Cloud and Jim had thought it was circumstances that made you ‘turn’. Storm herself hadn’t been sure, listening to everyone else’s arguments, asking questions. She’d never had an inkling before meeting Kathryn, that she could be attracted to a woman but it seemed now an answer to some puzzles: such as, why she wasn’t attracted to men in a sexual way. How she could flirt with them and yet feel a coldness if they tried to take things too far. She remembered some movies where she’d felt a real affinity to the leading lady and had imagined herself playing the leading man’s role. She veered away from those disturbing thoughts. ‘On the other hand,’ she reasoned, ‘maybe I’ve just got a bit of a crush on Kathryn and just haven’t found the man that attracts me yet. It’s a big world – maybe he’s out there somewhere.’ Her tired brain couldn’t reach any conclusions.
She must have dozed off eventually, slipping into a deep, dreamless sleep. She awoke on Sunday morning to find the room empty. Kathryn’s bed had been roughly made and there was no sign of her in the room or the bathroom. ‘Don’t think you’re going to avoid me like this every night!’ she promised the absent Kathryn. She rolled over again and slipped into a deep sleep, a smile on her face.
Kathryn walked through the park that Sunday morning, feeling tired and sorely in need of sleep. She’d heard Storm come into the room the previous night, shower and then climb into her own bed. She’d lain awake, hearing Storm toss and turn, obviously not able to sleep. Kathryn had willed herself to lie still; to give the impression that she was sleeping peacefully; but her body had been very awake and alive.
She had lunch alone, at a small, cosy café close to the hotel, then had walked the short distance back, seeing David as she entered. He called her over to ask if she could go to the ‘Ramambo Lodge’ sometime, to watch the ‘Boterekwa Dance Troupe’, an African band that had played at the Crown in the past.
“They’re excellent. Definitely the best in town. It’s a pity I couldn’t offer them the permanent gig that the Ramambo Lodge could. They’re looking at going overseas in the near future and I suggested that you may be able to help them get work in Perth, maybe become their Perth agent. I made no promises, obviously; but, if you could go to see them, I’d really appreciate it.”
“Yes, I can certainly have a look at them. What are they? A group like the ‘Shasteens’?”
“Similar but much better. I have the ‘Shasteens’ playing on Friday and Saturday evenings, as you know, in the restaurant. They’re good. They entertain the diners with their drums and chanting but the Boterekwa Dance Troupe are much better, more professional. They incorporate dancing in the act, unfortunately needing more space than we have in the restaurant. I don’t want to tell you too much, you have to see them for yourself. When you go, ask your waiter if Shakehim Mbofana can talk to you after they’ve performed. He’s a charming man, you’ll love him. You haven’t been to the Ramambo Lodge yet, have you?”
“We’ve been meaning to go. After all, it’s only two blocks from here. Storm was saying she’d heard there was an art gallery attached and she was keen to go. Obviously we’d have to go on a night Storm’s not playing here. Are they open on Mondays?” David told her they were and suggested they go the following night.
“I won’t be able to join you, I’m afraid.” He smiled. “I’ve a hot date planned.” She gave him an answering smile.
“And you’re still not going to tell me about him, are you? No, no. Don’t answer. I’m not trying to ferret it out of you. You have a great time, my love.”
She left him then and went up to the room, using that time to catch up on a little sleep, knowing that Storm would be rehearsing.
Storm and Kathryn set off to walk to the Ramambo together on Monday night having only had brief glimpses of each other on the previous day and then only with others around. Kathryn had had another early night while the band had performed and Storm hadn’t tried to waken her when she’d arrived back in their room at a late hour.
Kathryn was glad of all the extra police and security guards who filled the streets and doorways because of the week-long African/American conference, as Storm had brought along her bag, yet again! The hotel had been a hive of activity all day with the newcomers and every taxi seemed to have been taken. Kathryn hadn’t objected to walking such a short distance on such a glorious evening. She smiled back to the ever-friendly police who were on duty outside the Ramambo Lodge as they entered.
They had initially booked a table for four, as Cloud and Jim were planning on going but a last minute change of plan had left just the two of them. They’d arrived early so that they could browse through the art gallery before eating. They admired the Zuva tapestries, with their bright, cheerful colours. The original paintings and graphics drew Kathryn, whereas Storm was fascinated by the representational wood carvings and the Shona sculpture. Kathryn purchased a small etching but Storm couldn’t make up her mind between a wood carving of a giraffe or a stone mother and child figure.
Finally, with their purchases put by for collection on the following day, they entered the cosy bar area where they sat at the big, heavy table and ordered an aperitif. The dark, almost black, wood of the beams contrasted well with the bamboo wall coverings. The gleaming black tables and chairs showed up the white of the drink coasters, with flowers giving a splash of colour to every table. Kathryn and Storm relaxed in the friendly atmosphere of helpful waiters, soft music and smiling faces. Storm sipped her drink slowly, unaccustomed to strong alcohol. She felt the Marguerita warm her insides as it slipped down.
They were asked if they were ready to move through to the restaurant and were shown to their table by a charming Maitre d’. The menu was brought and they browsed through it, unsure whether or not to tackle the more exotic dishes. Kathryn chose the game broth as a starter, with Storm braving the ‘Crocodile Tail’ sautéed in butter. For the main course Kathryn’s choice was ‘Guinea Fowl’ braised in sherry sauce and fresh pasta. Storm, not wanting to try the ‘game’ dishes such as zebra, wildebeest, kudu or warthog, decided on the hot and spicy, Chicken Peri Peri.
As they awaited their first course, Kathryn summoned the wine waiter with a barely lifted finger.
“Any preference?” she asked. Storm replied, with a shake of her head, “I don’t drink much wine. You choose.” Kathryn discussed the wine list with the waiter before choosing a light, white wine, explaining to Storm that she’d ordered a late-picked Chardonnay which would be a little sweeter than most and was generally preferred by non wine-drinkers.
Storm’s face was slightly flushed with the effects of the aperitif as the waiter left to fulfil their order. There was an unusual animation in her voice as she challenged Kathryn to yet another 60s question.
“‘Mirror, mirror’. Who sang it?” Kathryn shrugged her shoulders in defeat.
“You got me. I’ve never heard of it. Are you sure you’re not making it up?”
“No way! Mind you, I only know of it because I’ve got it on tape. It’s by ‘Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours’!” Kathryn laughed out loud.
“A name on anybody’s lips!” she said with friendly sarcasm. “OK, if you want to cheat, how about this one. ‘Softly whispering I love you’. Know who sang it?” Storm looked her in the eye and repeated the title, emphasising the words.
“Hmm. No, I don’t think I know that one. Tell me.”
“The band’s called ‘The New Congregation’ I’ll play it for you when we get back to Perth next week, it’s a lovely song.
“Sing it for me now.” Kathryn shook her head, indicating the filled room. “Oh, come on! Nobody will hear; everyone’s talking. Don’t you know the words?” She challenged. Kathryn, not one to resist a challenge, nodded her head.
“Yes, I know the words. OK. On your own head be it — but ‘Storm McInnes’ I’m not!” She started quietly and Storm leaned across the table to hear better.
‘I can feel your warm face
ever close to my lips
and the scent of you
fills the cool evening air
I can close my eyes
and you’re there
in my arms, dear
and I know your soft kiss”
Storm became aware of Kathryn’s eyes looking at her mouth and her lips parted, to accommodate her quickened breathing.
“is turning into music
every beat of my heart
when I hold you close
to my heart
and I hear your voice
whispering ‘I love you’
Kathryn’s gaze lifted from Storm’s mouth and was captured by her eyes. Her voice trailed off as she saw a fire smouldering behind the thick lashes. She laughed, a tremor making it shake slightly. “Sorry, I can’t remember any more of the lyrics.” She looked away from the magnetism in Storm’s eyes before gratefully turning to the waiter whose fortuitous arrival with their first course eased the tension.
Kathryn tried to keep up a light patter over their meal and she was assisted in this by the starting up of the Boterekwa Dance Troupe’s act. They were all that David had promised; and more! They played traditional Marimba music but in a more upbeat, professional way. The sound and the performance was considerably more marketable than any Kathryn had seen previously in Zimbabwe and she could immediately see that they could become a draw card in many a Perth night-spot. The problem would be in the logistics of transporting their hand-made equipment.
Storm and Kathryn finished off their entree and settled down to watch and enjoy the unusual performance. The troupe combined the beat and rhythm of their Marimba music and singing, with the traditional dances. The Muchongoyo dance of the warriors, the Mhande rain-maker dance and, Storm’s favourite, the Madanhi dance which imitated lion cubs, lizards and leopards. Storm and Kathryn gave the performers their rapt attention and barely noticed when their empty entree dishes were replaced by their main courses. The performers took a break and Storm and Kathryn were able to transfer their attention to the delicious food. Storm was taking frequent sips of her wine to combat the heat of her spicy dish and eventually had to ask for water instead. Kathryn took the opportunity to ask their waiter to invite Shakehim over to their table for a chat, whenever it was convenient.
Kathryn had just finished her guinea fowl when their smiling waiter brought over the four members of the troupe. Shakehim introduced himself and the other members, Maxwell Sixpence; and Isaak and Alec Charika. Kathryn complimented them on a thoroughly professional performance and arranged with Shakehim a time when they could discuss a possible Western Australian tour. Shakehim talked very well and gave Kathryn some photographs and newspaper write-ups about the troupe, for her to peruse.
When the troupe were called for the next part of their show, Kathryn asked once more for the menu.
“Would you like dessert? Storm. Or would you prefer just coffee? The chocolate orange mousse is tempting but I don’t think I could manage it.”
“No, I certainly couldn’t. I’ll just have a plain coffee thanks.” Kathryn finished the last of the wine, aware that she’d had most of the bottle, with Storm only sipping on one glassful. Along with a slight mellow feeling, she was feeling alert and alive, aware of Storm’s every word and movement.
“Tell me about your childhood, Storm. Was it a happy one?” Kathryn was curious but regretted the question when she saw the slightly mutinous look on Storm’s face. The look relaxed a little and Kathryn breathed a sigh of relief as Storm appeared to make a decision and started talking.
“I don’t remember much about my dad, he went back to England when I was six. I can remember he was always singing. Even at that age, I knew he often got the words wrong but, when he couldn’t remember them or didn’t know them, he’d just make up his own. They always seemed much cleverer than the original words.” She noticed Kathryn was smiling and she cocked her head in question.
“That’s just like my dad, he always made up the words. He made me laugh.”
“Me too. When Dad was there, everything was great: but when he left ….” Her voice trailed off. She smiled so as not to give offence. “I’d rather not talk about it, if you don’t mind. What about you? How long since you’ve seen your dad?” Kathryn’s face was wistful.
“Too long.” She murmured. “Here’s a song you definitely won’t know. It was Dad’s favourite. ‘You belong to me.’ I’ve never known who sang it.” Storm was thoughtful, sensing Kathryn’s sadness. She persisted.
“Is he still alive?” She saw the answer in Kathryn’s face and said, hurriedly, “It’s OK if you don’t want to talk about it.” Kathryn surprised herself by answering Storm.
“No, it’s all right, I can tell you about him. Firstly, I’ll give you a brief outline. I lived in the UK. until I was twenty one and had graduated from university. When I was small I always wished I had been born ten years earlier like my sisters so I could go to dances with them. When I was six I could sing just about the whole of the top ten. Music was in my family and though Mum and Dad liked the crooners – Nat king Cole, Bing Crosby, Perry Como and, my dad’s favourite, Tony Bennett, my sisters loved the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cliff Richard and Elvis so I had a whole range to listen to. I grew up listening to them all, including Dad’s version of ‘She loves you’. When I turned twenty one I wanted excitement and to see a bit of the world so I came to Australia to live with a sister, who’d emigrated years earlier.
I worked, wrote the book and then planned a holiday in England in 1992; It had been eight years since I’d left. My flight was booked for a Saturday, the 17th of March, St. Patrick’s day. On the Thursday before I was due to depart, my sister and her husband arrived, their faces showing that something was wrong. My sister hugged me. I think I guessed, even before she spoke.
“Katy, you have to be brave.” She said and I knew, immediately. She told me that our dad had had a massive heart attack while speaking at a board meeting. Dad, always the protector of the less influential, had been speaking on behalf of the cleaners, who were getting a raw deal, when it happened. There had been two doctors on the committee but they couldn’t revive him.” Kathryn was unheeding of the tears which glistened in her eyes, unknowing that Storm’s hand lay on top of her own. She continued. “It was my other sister’s birthday and she and Mum had gone out for a quiet meal. The police were waiting at the house next door when they returned and they were told.” She brushed at her face as a tear tickled her cheek. “I got there in time for the funeral.” She finished simply, her eyes unseeing, lost in the sorrow of an eight year old pain.
Storm could feel her anguish and wanted to sympathise but could think of nothing to say. She longed to touch that austere face, to reach some answering chord. A melody came into her head and she started to hum. Kathryn slowly returned to the present and her head tipped to one side, listening. Words that Storm hadn’t been aware that she even knew, came into her head and they joined with the tune.
‘See the pyramids across the Nile
see the sunlight on a tropic isle
just remember, darling, all the while
You belong to me
I am so alone
maybe you are lonesome too
See the market place in old Algiers
send me photographs and souvenirs’
Kathryn joined in – softly – barely making a sound.
‘Just remember when a dream appears
you belong to me.
They both stopped singing. Their hands were clasped tightly across the table. Storm released one of Kathryn’s hands and reached up to stroke one finger across her cheek.
“Poor kd. My heart breaks for you.” Her voice came in a murmur, from deep in her throat. The words broke the spell and Kathryn gently extricated her hands, shrugging mute apology, a wistful smile on her face.
“Enough of my past. Let’s just get the bill, hey? I’m ready for my bed.”
The Maitre d’ insisted that a waiter escort them the two blocks back to their hotel, though the police were still numerous on the short walk back to the hotel. They took the lift up to the third floor in silence, both remembering their closeness during the evening. Kathryn remembered it with a kind of regret, a feeling of having lost something she’d never had. Storm remembered, with intense excitement, that softer, more human, side of Kathryn that she had just seen, arousing her feelings to a higher level.
Kathryn offered Storm the first use of the bathroom and, while Storm was showering, Kathryn tried to take hold of her emotions. She attempted once more to drag the old, damning pictures of Storm to mind; but couldn’t. All she could see were the sympathetic eyes that had watched her that evening, the feel of fingers, gently stroking her face. All she could visualise was a picture of a beautiful young woman, shining blonde hair framing the face of a caring person.
Storm emerged from the bathroom, freshly glowing, in T-shirt and briefs. Kathryn averted her eyes from the soft, round breasts with their hard nipples visible through the thin material. She collected her night-wear and turned to go to the bathroom.
“Can you hang on a second?” Storm asked. “There’s a song I’d like to sing for you. The guys don’t think it should go in the act but I like it. I may be asleep when you finish your shower. Can I sing it now? Please?” Storm’s voice was innocent but heart was pounding. Kathryn dropped her clothes onto the bed, sitting next to them.
“Of course you can, Storm.” Walking over to the CD player, Storm selected one song, talking as she did so.
“It’s called ‘I won’t leave you lonely’ from the Shania Twain CD. The opening bars of the song started, the volume turned down low. Storm’s low, husky voice joined with, then over-rode the original artist’s voice. They started off in chorus.
‘Together – midnight in summer
the air’s so much warmer
falling in love under starlight
holding on so tight – together.
I won’t leave you lonely – tonight
I want you to hold me – tonight’
Storm’s voice had left Shania in the background. She danced, her head thrown back, lost in the emotion of the song.
‘It’s gonna be – all right
I won’t leave you lonely – tonight.
Imagine – the air filled with jasmine
the breeze blows with passion
You and me dance with desire
the moon is on fire – imagine’
Storm leaned over Kathryn: her dance, one of desire. Her arms were outstretched, stroking the air in front of Kathryn’s body.
‘I won’t leave you lonely – tonight
I want you to hold me – all night.’
Storm’s eyes were pleading, her arms mimed the words.
‘It’s gonna be – all right
I won’t leave you lonely – tonight
Je t’aime beaucoup ma amour
you are the one I adore’
Kathryn tried to remind herself that Storm was a performer and this was a performance. She forced her own hands to stay still, to not reach for the hands that seemed to strain for her alone.
‘I won’t leave you lonely – tonight
I want you to hold me – all night
it’s gonna be – all right
No, you won’t be lonely – tonight.’
Storm’s hands became a feather touch on Kathryn’s arms, her shoulders, her face. Kathryn’s heart was racing, her body on fire. ‘She doesn’t know what she’s doing!’ She tried to tell herself. ‘She just doesn’t know!’ She closed her eyes in desperation, praying that she wouldn’t react and embarrass them both. The song was coming to an end. ‘Just one verse more.’ she reassured herself.
‘Na – na – na……
Te amo mucho mi amor
you are the one I adore
“Wonderful!” Kathryn’s voice was cracked. She cleared her throat, “Just wonderful. Let me have a think about it, then maybe I’ll talk to the boys.”
Storm was disappointed. She’d hoped to provoke a reaction with the song. She’d recognised the effect it had had on Kathryn but the older woman’s self-control had won out in the end. Storm still wasn’t prepared to give up however. She watched as Kathryn picked up her night clothes again, going into the bathroom and Storm went to the CD player, pondering her choice of music.
Kathryn stood under the shower, trying to cool her skin, drown her desire. She decided to take her time, her only defence was in Storm being asleep when she emerged from the bathroom. She could still hear the music from their bedroom but hoped that Storm had fallen asleep, listening to it.
Kathryn quietly opened the door back into the bedroom, to find the lights dimmed. She looked across at the two empty beds before sweeping the room to locate Storm. She saw her standing by the CD player, the light from the little table lamp illuminating the controls. As Kathryn watched on, Storm pressed the ‘program’ button and as the selected music filled the air, Storm approached Kathryn – her arms outstretched in invitation.
“I’m feeling wide awake. Dance with me, Kathryn.” Kathryn recognised another track from the Shania Twain ‘Come on over’ CD. She tried to laugh away the suggestion.
“You’re joking!” she pointed down to the pyjamas she was wearing. “Like this?”
“Sure, why not? Come on. I can’t dance by myself and this track always makes me want to dance. Kathryn heard the fast beat of ‘Rock this Country’ and thought ‘Why not? There’s no harm in this sort of dancing.’ She moved to the small area of space to which Storm had back-tracked, toes tapping. Storm leaned over and turned the volume up slightly and they started dancing, swaying to the fast beat. Kathryn was enjoying watching Storm dance, it seemed a long time since she’d danced with a woman in any way. The song finished all too soon for Kathryn, who slowed her movement as the last notes disappeared and went to turn away. Storm clasped her wrist, leaning slightly backwards to look up into Kathryn’s face.
The next track from the CD was the more haunting tune of ‘If you want to touch her, ask!’ The initial beat of the drums was slower and Storm pulled Kathryn in closer, swaying and circling her hips in the manner she’d seen Kathryn and David dancing. Kathryn frowned slightly with surprise as Storm put a hand lightly on her hip, feeling the warmth of it through the material of the pyjamas.
“I know you can. I saw you with David the other night, just before we left the ‘Safari’. It was a terrific performance. Dance with me the same way.” Kathryn found her hips were already moving in time to the beat.
‘First you gotta learn to listen
To understand her deepest thoughts
She needs to know you can be friends
Before she’ll give you all she’s got’
Kathryn felt all the emotions from the evening returning and her eyes closed as she felt Storm up close, their bodies moving in unison.
‘If you wanna get to know her
Really get inside her mind
If you want to move in closer
Take it slow, yeah, take your time’
Kathryn applied pressure on Storm’s back, pulling her closer, taking it slow, taking her time. Storm’s hands were on her shoulders, the fingers stroking, burning, into the back of her neck. Kathryn for once didn’t resist her own impulses and allowed her hands to drop down to Storm’s buttocks, pressing her even closer, widening her stance so that Storm could fit between her hips.
You must start from the heart and then…
If you wanna touch her
Really wanna touch her
If you wanna touch her, ask!’
Kathryn’s head rested on Storm’s shoulder with Storm’s lips pressed to the top of it. Storm’s hand moved across her shoulder and two fingers went under her chin, gently lifting Kathryn’s head as her lips left a trail of fire down the forehead, over one eye, a softer pressure on a cheek and then Kathryn felt the padded softness of Storm’s lips on her own.
A little physical attraction
Romantic old-fashioned charm
and a lot of love and tenderness
Is gonna get you into her arms.’
They stopped swaying, all thoughts of the dance lost to them. They were unaware when the next song started: ‘Lobo’ was just a sound in the background.
‘You told yourself years ago
You’d never let your feelings show’
They were each fully embraced in warmth and softness. Hands moved, explored each other’s faces, shoulders, arms. It was the first kiss that Storm had ever shared, the first that she’d ever contributed to. She savoured the taste, the feel, of Kathryn’s lips. She felt them part beneath the pressure of her own. She felt Kathryn’s tongue caress her lips and she touched it with the tip of her own, the profound intimacy piercing her, leaving her legs weak.
‘Baby, I’d love you to want me
the way that I want you
the way that it should be
oh baby, you love me to want you
the way that I want you
the way that it could be’
Kathryn felt Storm sag a little against her and, her mind in a turmoil, she guided Storm over to sit on the edge of her bed. She tried to move backwards, away from her but Storm wouldn’t let go of her arms.
“No, please! Don’t go!”
“I have to, Storm. You don’t know …”
“I do!” Storm interrupted, moving backwards on the bed; pulling Kathryn with surprising strength. “Love me, Kathryn. Please!” Storm fought down the feeling of vulnerability as she asked for Kathryn’s love. Kathryn responded to the strained plea in Storm’s voice, pulling her close, pressing her lips to Storm’s throat.
‘It took time for me to know
what you tried hard not to show’
Storm stroked down Kathryn’s back; feeling an urgency to make up for all the times she hadn’t been able to touch her; for the empty years she’d lived without her. She tugged at the pyjama top, trying to lift it up, needing to touch Kathryn’s skin. Kathryn lifted slightly, enough for Storm to reach and fumble impatiently with the buttons down the front. Finally open, Storm slipped the top off Kathryn’s shoulders, kissing them as they were bared to her. Seeing Storm’s urgency, Kathryn responded by rolling Storm on top of herself and expertly removing her T-shirt. Gazing with desire at the released breasts spreading softness over her, she filled her hands with their heaviness. She looked up at Storm, seeing her head flung back, eyes closed, lips slightly apart.
‘You told yourself years ago
you’d never let your feeling’s show’
The words of the song crystallised inside Kathryn’s mind. She remembered her vow not to get involved, not to let herself get hurt again, especially not with someone like Storm. ‘Oh God, how I want to make love with her though!’ Storm’s head lowered to Kathryn’s mouth, the nectar of her making Kathryn forget what she’d been thinking, what her old resolutions were. The lips released her and she brought her mouth up hungrily to the tan button at the tip of the breast she was holding, drawing it inside. She heard a gasp from Storm as she suckled softly, her teeth gently grazing its hardness.
Storm’s lips found Kathryn’s throat; the tip of her tongue licking at the moisture that had formed in a light coat over Kathryn’s body, sliding lower and lower until she reached the breasts she was craving. Her hand rested lightly on Kathryn’s stomach as she filled her mouth with the creaminess of one breast, then the other.
“I’ve never ….” She groaned, trying to let Kathryn know that she was her first ever lover. Kathryn fought her way up through the mists of desire, trying to form words.
“I don’t know …” she stopped, not sure what she wanted to say.
“You do know. You have to show me, teach me.” Storm demanded. Kathryn stilled, trying to understand Storm’s words. The meaning came with a jolt.
“You mean …? You know about me? About my old life?” She held Storm away from her. Storm, eyes unfocussed, muzzy with passion, didn’t realise the importance of the question.
“Yes. I know you’re gay. I want you to teach me, I want ….” She wasn’t allowed to continue as Kathryn pushed her to one side, sliding out from under her. Standing by the bed, her angry eyes looking down at Storm, whose own eyes looked at her in perplexity.
“You’ve tried everything with the men, so now you want to try something different, hey?” Storm shook her head, getting to her knees.
“No, it wasn’t like ….”
“No! you’re right; it’s not like being with a man! They may like a slut in their beds. I don’t. You found out I was gay and you thought it was a chance too good to miss.” Mortified, feeling stripped of every defence, a shutter went up in front of Storm’s face. Her eyes became glacial, her jutting chin forcing the quivering to a halt. All the hurt of her childhood welled up and only pride stopped her from blurting out the truth of her past. She said nothing.
Kathryn scooped up her top and, turning her back on Storm, slipped it back on with shaking fingers. She walked over and turned off the CD player and the light, finding her way to her own bed through the darkness and the tears that were clouding her eyes. She lay in the darkness, her skin still tingling from the touch of Storm’s fingers. ‘Damn her!’ she thought ‘Damn! Damn! Damn!’ The tears trickled down her cheeks, their saltiness reminding her of the taste of Storm’s breasts. ‘No! I refuse to be hurt again.’ She curled into a ball, pulling the covers over her head.
Storm woke the next morning after a restless night and found Kathryn was still in her bed, asleep. She was still desperately hurt by Kathryn’s cutting words and wasn’t prepared to face her yet. Grabbing some clothes, she went through to the bathroom, before leaving the room. On the walk that followed she permitted the anger to build up within her and she determined to become everything Kathryn thought she was already. ‘If she thought I was wild before, then she can just watch me now!’
Storm went to the little art gallery attached to the Ramambo Lodge and picked up her wood carvings. She contemplated collecting Kathryn’s as well but decided against it, not wanting to face the other woman so soon. By the end of the day however, she still hadn’t seen Kathryn and her anger had dimmed a little, cooled; leaving mostly pain and tattered pride. She realised that if she were to behave as she’d intended doing, the only victim would be herself. She had to admit that she’d really enjoyed not having to act out her charade since she’d been in Harare and she didn’t want to go back to it, knowing the pretence must still entail the close proximity of men. She shuddered. She remembered the feel of Kathryn’s arms around her, the fragrance of her. She experienced again the shards of excitement within her, just at the thought of Kathryn’s lips on her skin.
An early night was Storm’s choice, there being no performance that evening. Lying in bed, wakeful, she thought about her past; realising that falling in love with Kathryn had given her a clear explanation for the previous incoherence of her life. ‘I can’t just let this die.’ she decided.
Unwilling to explain to Kathryn that the life she was reputed to have had was all a sham — ‘an image’, she determined to say nothing. She knew that Kathryn would understand the concept; but pride still wouldn’t let her confess to anyone her fears of rejection, the reason behind the pretence. ‘No.’ Her eyes narrowed with determination. ‘I’m going to make her want me and love me – in spite of my supposed past!’ She drifted off to sleep in the middle of planning her campaign, not even hearing Kathryn come in and slip into bed.
On Wednesday morning, Kathryn awoke to find Storm sitting at the little writing desk. Still a little groggy from sleep, Kathryn determinedly raised herself on one elbow.
“About the other night ….”
“Let’s forget all about it, hey? I know that I, for one, had more than usual to drink.” Storm was flippant. “It’s over and done with.” Kathryn looked doubtful but Storm blithely continued. “Is the trip to Victoria Falls still on for tomorrow? I’m really looking forward to it.” Kathryn told her she’d got the tickets for the flight and tour the previous day.
“It’ll be an early start. 6.30 a.m. pick up.”
“I’ll have to go to bed straight after the show, tonight. Have you an alarm? I haven’t needed one so far.” Storm’s friendly, relaxed attitude puzzled Kathryn and she felt piqued that their shared passion had really meant so little to her. She assured Storm that she’d wake her in the morning and Storm went to the door, recognising Kathryn’s obvious wish to be alone to get up and dressed.
The alarm sounded shrilly in the darkness of the morning. Kathryn stretched a warm arm into the chill of the room and switched it off. The subsequent silence was broken by a groan from the adjacent bed.
“Not already! It can’t be morning yet!” The covers were grasped by a hand, hidden from view and pulled up even higher. The muffled voice sounded disembodied. “Just five more minutes, kd. …. Please?”
Kathryn swung her legs out of bed, her toes searching for slippers for protection from the cold tiles of the bathroom. She looked across at the humped figure and smiled at the child-like behaviour and words. She relented a little.
“OK, you’ve got until I’ve finished my shower. Ten minutes, tops! Then we go without you!” A small hand peeped out from the covers giving Kathryn a thumbs-up.
They all met in the foyer, the men looking tired and unshaven. The minibus arrived a few minutes late and then continued on the rounds of the major hotels, picking up all the passengers booked for the trip. After checking in at the airport they were shepherded across the tarmac towards their aircraft. Storm stopped, looking aghast at the small craft.
“We’ve got to go in that? It looks the size of a bus.” She wailed “And it’s only got two engines!” Her voice was light and jocular but her eyes showed the fear within. Kathryn was sympathetic but reserved, her passion and anger, from two nights before, still vivid in her mind. Her voice was cool but not unfriendly; the manner which she had chosen as her best policy in the uncomfortable situation.
“I’m sure Kenny will look after you on the flight, Storm.” Kenny nodded his agreement, throwing an arm around Storm’s shoulders as they walked up the steps. Kathryn fought down the feeling that she’d abandoned Storm.
The passengers were disappointed that they hadn’t flown over Victoria Falls before landing but the pilot had informed them that the flight paths of the commercial flights had been changed to avoid the falls, as there was so many other aircraft on charter specially to see them. The bus was waiting for them as they arrived and took them to their first stop, the Crocodile Farm. They split into two groups, with separate guides showing them the crocodiles, which were in various pools according to their ages. Storm and Kathryn listened attentively to their guide explaining about the very young crocodiles, while holding one. He told them of the softness of their skin at that age, while stroking the one in his hands. He held out the young foot-long crocodile to the group surrounding him.
“Who would like to hold him?” his deep, musical voice held a smile. Most of the crowd took a rapid step back but a few tentatively put up hands. Both Storm and Kathryn took a determined step forward.
“I will!” they chorused, before looking at each other, sheepishly. Everybody laughed good-naturedly. Cloud took the camera from Kathryn to capture the moment as the guide first handed the crocodile to Kathryn to hold with two hands, while Storm stroked the silky back. When it was Storm’s turn, she took it gently but surely from the guide, thrilled at her close contact with such an aggressive species of animal, albeit a baby one. After they’d reluctantly delivered the crocodile back to the guide, the women moved away; the stiffness between them, relieved a little, the barricades crumbling, inexorably being eroded by their pleasure in the surroundings.
Their next stop was to the Falls themselves. They all trooped along a shaded path to the first of the falls. Kathryn had the video camera on hand and was able to capture on film the small monkeys that scampered across in front of them. They approached the first viewing area just as the sun peeped through the clouds for the first time that day. They mingled with the throng of people already absorbing the view. Rainbows, caused by the spray of the water through the rays of the sum, were bright and colourful, joyful in their extravagance. Aware that the falls were about half a mile wide, growing more spectacular with each step, the throng was keen to hurry on.
Many of the tourists were holding brightly coloured umbrellas which were perpetually on hire, to protect from the spray. Neither Kathryn nor Storm had wanted one, welcoming the coldness of the spray to cool them down on this hot day, especially now the sun was shining brightly. As the group turned to follow their guide to the next viewing spot, Kathryn started slightly as Storm touched her hand, gesturing for them to step to one side. Their group began to walk along the designated path, with Jim, Kenny and Cloud along with them. Kathryn looked uncertainly after them.
“It’s OK.” Storm reassured her, “We’ll be able to catch them. We’re not going to get lost and I, for one, can do without the commentary.”
“Yes, it’d be nice to just watch, without having the crowds around.” Kathryn was agreeable, turning to look once more at the cascading water, at the top of the falls.
“I wanted to speak to you.” Uncertain, hesitatingly. Kathryn wondered what could possibly be in this woman’s unfathomable mind. She waited. “I’ve been really looking forward to today. I want to totally enjoy it.” Storm stopped and Kathryn smiled at her. She spoke, in encouragement.
“Me too. How can anyone not enjoy it?” Storm was still serious, considering her words.
“I don’t want it to be spoiled by anything, either for you or me.” Her voice came in a murmur, from deep in her throat. Kathryn leaned forward slightly, to listen.
“I’d like us to put the other night behind us. Forget it completely for this day. Can’t we go back to how we were before? We were getting on pretty good, I thought.” Kathryn was subtly but profoundly moved by the conviction in Storm’s plea. Her hand stretched out, touched the back of Storm’s hand.
“Of course we can, Storm. We’ll forget it ever happened. I’d like that.” The words were not quite honest! Kathryn threw up her arms. “Look at this! It’s marvellous!” She spun around, laughing out loud, shedding the aura of business woman, along with the severe clothes that had been abandoned at the beginning of the trip. Storm’s unreadable gaze lingered on Kathryn’s face, before her eyes crinkled into a smile.
“Come on then, let’s go and look at the rest of it.”
They overtook some of the other stragglers as they made their way from one viewing area to the next. Arriving at one point, made wet with spray, they stopped, transfixed, as the view swallowed them whole. They became part of a world of cascading blue-white, glittering jewels colliding, with a roar, against the rocks far below them. Kathryn blindly reached for Storm’s hand as they watched yet another magical, African spectacle in speechless awe. Storm came closer, putting an arm around Kathryn’s shoulders pulling her near, their heartbeats not in disharmony with the drumming beat of the water. Their heads were thrown back, welcoming the beads of water that fell in tiny droplets on their faces and bared arms and legs.
Kathryn took a step backwards, reluctantly breaking contact with the warmth of Storm’s arm. She held up her video camera, shouting above the noise that she needed to capture the view on film. Storm moved slightly to one side but was still in Kathryn’s line of vision, disturbing her absorption of the spectacular vista. As they turned in unison towards the next part of the falls, Storm leaned forward to brush the droplets of water off Kathryn’s nose, her fingers burning into Kathryn’s skin. Storm smiled again, a maddeningly private little smile.
Back at the bus, they all expressed their own feelings of wonder and amazement at the phenomenon. Some had gone as far as the bridge that formed the frontier between Zimbabwe and Zambia. There was constant pedestrian traffic over the bridge, a favourite place for bungy jumpers.
The bus drove them to the start of the next part of their tour, a cruise on the Zambezi River for a late lunch. Wine was served with the delicious food and Kathryn and Storm sat with the rest of the band, listening to the tour guide’s commentary. A herd of wild black elephants was spotted on the bank of the river so the captain steered the barge towards them, shutting off his engines as they glided towards the magnificent creatures, their black hides blotched with dust, their eyes small but alert. Their pungent odour wafted across the water to the rapt onlookers, barely forty metres away. There were at least thirty in the herd, with some youngsters clinging close to their mothers. The cameras on board clicked and whirred as the tourists captured the scene for personal memories. The barge paralleled the shore as the big herd meandered along it, before their huge leader signalled the order to head back inland.
It was a weary but contented crowd that boarded their flight back to Harare. Storm and Kathryn were chatting as they boarded the aircraft, yet again testing each other’s music knowledge. Storm’s ‘Tobacco Road’ was guessed correctly by Kathryn as being performed by ‘The Nashville Teens’ but Storm didn’t know that it was Paul Jones who’d sung ‘Sons and Lovers’. Kathryn was looking smug as they automatically sat together on the plane, with Kenny on the outside. Storm reached for Kathryn’s hand as they took off but, as they started the descent, gripped the hand to give comfort to Kathryn through the pain of landing.
Storm was casual as they prepared for bed that night, talking about the day in an easy manner. Kathryn was sure that the collision they’d had in the doorway to the bathroom was accidental but she’d been very aware of Storm’s skimpily clad body pressed up against her own as Storm grabbed her arm, preventing a fall and apologising profusely. Kathryn’s skin still tingled with the contact and she had to fight once more the desire that welled up in her. Storm stretched her arms above her head, accompanied by a huge yawn. Kathryn watched as the outline of the ample breasts strained against the thin T-shirt material. She felt the inner warmth rise to the surface of her skin as small beads of sweat formed on her brow. ‘Thank goodness there’s only the weekend to go, I don’t think I can take this for much longer.’ Storm bent over her bed, pulling the sheet back, straightening her pillow, her briefs riding up slightly. ‘Oh God, I wish …..’ Kathryn refused to continue with the thought.
“Goodnight Storm.” She spoke, shortly.
“Wakey, wakey, lazybones! I’ve got a hot cuppa for you and some great news!”
Storm fought her way through layers of sleep and chaotic dreams and surfaced into her comfortable bed. She squinted up at Kathryn who was standing by the bed with two steaming mugs of tea. Storm licked lips, dry and parched with sleep, anticipating the first sip. She struggled up onto one elbow.
“Terrific! Just what I need. What time is it?” Kathryn glanced at her watch.
“11.20 and time you were awake. I want to share the good news with you.” Storm saw that Kathryn’s eyes were shining with excitement and she paused to take in the rest of the picture that was Kathryn. Her hair was loose and cascading around her shoulders, red lights glinting in the sunlight, which shone through the window. The hair framed a tanned face totally devoid of make-up, a healthy, shining face with an unexpected sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of the nose. As Storm sipped her tea, her gaze strayed downwards; past the emerald green shirt, open at the neck, sleeves rolled up above the elbows; to the black form-hugging jeans which clung to well-developed muscles as Kathryn paced up and down the room, sipping her tea.
“Why the jeans? And why are you so bright and breezy after yesterday? It knackered me, I can tell you!”
“Yeah, it was pretty tiring wasn’t it? I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, though. It’s a bit chillier today, hence the jeans. You’ll find out yourself, when you finally get up!” Kathryn’s smile belied the sarcastic remark. She walked to the desk and picked up a couple of sheets of paper.
“This is the news.” She separated one of the sheets. “Read that one.” She sat on the side of Storm’s bed as she passed over the E-Mail.
Storm read out loud, “Thursday – 7th November – ‘West Australian’ – Entertainment Section.” She glanced up at Kathryn, a questioning frown on her face but she continued reading in silence.
“STORMCLOUDS REACH FOR THE SKY!!”
‘Local band ‘Stormclouds’ have celebrated their change of name from
‘The Stormtroopers’ with a rip-roaring success in Harare – Zimbabwe.
A change of style and management has won over the clientele at the
‘Crown Hotel’ in Harare, sister to our very own ‘Crown Hotel’.
‘Stormclouds’ are building on their success with a homecoming tour of the Southwest, followed by a regular Sunday session stint at the ‘Crown’ here in Perth.
“Lead singer Storm’s performance, with a mixture of covers and original
material, has really wowed her audience” says David Torrance, manager of the ‘Crown of Harare’. “They’re going to make it big! Right to the very top.”
We look forward to seeing the sexy Storm and the revamped, talented band back in Australia next week!’
Storm finished reading and looked at Kathryn.
“How?” Her frown showed her perplexity.
“I haven’t been sitting twiddling my thumbs since we’ve been here. David’s PC has been running hot with E-Mails back and forward from Perth. I’ve got four bookings confirmed and a further possibility for your two week tour of the Sou’west and the gig at the Crown has just been confirmed.” She held up the second E-mail, “Thank David for the glowing reports – convincing Jon of your talents. What d’you reckon then?”
“I like the look!”
“What?” Kathryn questioned, aware of Storm’s eyes roaming over her body.
“I like the look – no makeup, hair loose and….” she paused, one eyebrow raised, a crooked smile on her lips, “the rather ‘butch’ clothes! I like it.” Storm saw the heat rise in Kathryn’s face, tingeing the cheeks, showing her embarrassment ‘or is it pleasure?’ Storm grinned but relented. “That’s great news kd, you’ve really done well for us. I hope you’re getting some decent material for your book in return. Though I can’t see that we’ve contributed anything!”
Kathryn had recovered her equilibrium following Storm’s unexpected compliment and was able to reply with composure.
“I’ve made copious notes; but the form of the book hasn’t revealed itself to me.” She laughed. “Maybe I’ll turn it into a novel!” She turned away from Storm’s watchful gaze as she continued with a forced joviality. “Come on! Up you get. We’ll go down and find the boys and tell them the good news. Then how about doing some shopping? I’ll get shot if I don’t bring souvenirs back for the nieces and nephews! Let’s shop and then have some lunch. I have to meet Shakehim this afternoon – why don’t you come along?”
Storm swung bare legs out of bed and shivered.
“Look at that!” Kathryn turned towards her and found a leg being held up for her perusal. “Look!” Kathryn looked at the shapely leg, browned by the African sun, covered with goose bumps.
“I told you it was chilly. Come on, it’s warmer out in the sun.”
The crumpled, well-read paper was picked up once more, the heading ‘Stormclouds reach for the sky’ carefully centred in the folded paper. The man smiled to himself, ‘Soon. Very soon, now!’ He looked across at the myriad of photographs pinned to his wardrobe. The same face looked out at him from different angles, different poses.
“I’ve missed you, Storm. Have you missed me? I’m waiting for you baby. Don’t keep poppa waiting too long, will you!”
His hand groped for the telephone as he glanced once more at a second cutting, from a different newspaper. Providence was certainly on his side.
“Good morning. Crown Hotel. How can I help you?” The voice asked.
“I’m ringing about the vacancy that was advertised in this morning’s paper….”
Storm and Kathryn had spent an enjoyable day on the Friday, shopping for souvenirs, lunching together before meeting with Shakehim and discussing the possibility of a trip to Perth for his dance troupe. Kathryn was optimistic about getting them regular work but explained to Shakehim that nobody would book them without seeing them. She’d arranged to video their act on Sunday night and Storm had been enthusiastic about dining once more at the Ramambo, being sure that the rest of the band would join them.
Friday evening had passed with Stormclouds’ last but one performance at the Crown. Kathryn had chosen to have an early night and Storm had silently entered the room after her performance and had looked down at the sleeping Kathryn, her hands itching to touch her. She had refrained with an effort and had surprised herself by falling instantly into a dreamless sleep.
Storm and Cloud were enjoying an early evening meal with Kathryn, talking about their final performance that night. Cloud was enthusiastic about the whole experience and Storm didn’t argue with him. Kathryn was a little distracted from the conversation by the sight of David crossing the room with a frown on his face. He finished talking to Maitre d’ and walked disconsolately back to the door. He glimpsed Kathryn sitting in a corner table and veered towards her. He pulled back the fourth chair at the table and sat on it.
“What’s the matter? What’s happened?” Kathryn asked.
“Oh, nothing you can help with, my love. I’ve just had a phone call that the ‘Shasteens’ are holed up between here and Bulawayo. Floods across the road apparently. Dammit, I hate not giving the public what’s been advertised. ‘Live acts in the restaurant every Friday and Saturday’ the ad. promises.” His face was forlorn. “This is the first time we’ve reneged on that!”
Kathryn saw a thoughtful look cross Storm’s face, before a gleam of excitement came into her eyes.
“How would it be…..?” David’s attention was transferred to Storm.
“What sort of act does it need to be?”
“Alive!” David laughed, the frown smoothing away from his brow. Storm gave an answering laugh, albeit a little nervously. She put forward her tentative suggestion.
“How about a solo singer?” She looked across at Cloud. “With acoustic guitar backing.” David got her drift immediately.
“Could you? Or rather – would you?” His voice was hopeful.
“Yeah, I reckon I could give it a go. If Cloud’s prepared to back me.” She received a nod from her brother. “Yeah, I reckon we could fill a half hour or so with some laid-back songs.” She looked at David. “That’s what you’d want isn’t it?” David was enthusiastic with the proposal.
“That’d be terrific guys. Are you sure it won’t be too much, what with performing later on in the bar.”
“Relax Max! We can handle it.” She turned to her brother. “C’mon then, bro. Let’s go get the guitars and work out a program.” Her smile encompassed Kathryn and David. “Back soon, guys.”
The diners were thoroughly enjoying Storm and Cloud’s music. Kathryn looked around and noticed that, though they ate their meals, there was a hush in the restaurant. Storm’s deep, smoky voice had given them unique renditions of old and new songs with ‘feeling’. Storm turned and murmured a few words to Cloud before turning back to the appreciative diners.
“I once promised to do a kd lang song for a friend. Maybe this is the time and place to keep that promise. So…. this is for you, kd.” She played a riff and, as her voice joined the chords, Kathryn recognised the old Hollies hit, ‘The Air That I Breathe’ that had recently been musically caressed by kd lang. On its conclusion, all the patrons put down their knives and forks and clapped as one. Storm bowed to the room, before catching Kathryn’s eye and giving a little bow in her direction.
Kathryn was still clapping as Storm and Cloud returned to the table, a little sheepish from the applause.
“Well, I think I’m ready for dessert now!” Storm was casual.
“That was terrific!” Kathryn wasn’t as ready to pass off the performance. They loved you!” Storm cocked her head, inquisitively, at Kathryn. Her unspoken question, ‘Did you love me?’ went unasked. Kathryn refilled her wineglass and took a long sip, to cover her discomposure.
“Are you going to watch us tonight, Kathryn?” Storm asked, “After all, it’s our last time, here.”
“Of course I’m going to watch. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Kathryn replied. Storm smiled at Kathryn, a secret smile.
“Well, we’d better be off then. See you in the bar.” They walked away and Kathryn’s eyes followed the sway of Storm’s hips. She absently sipped once more from her glass.
When the band’s final performance wound down to its finale, Kathryn joined with the other patrons in standing to applaud the three men and one woman. She was still at the bar when Storm approached it, bottle of water in hand.
“I think you should have a champagne after that performance!” Kathryn was enthusiastic.
“No. I think I need this more. Cheers anyway, Kathryn. Thanks for organising it all. It’s been fun.” Kathryn raised her wineglass and touched Storm’s bottled water.
“Congratulations. You were a real success. I didn’t do anything.” She was quiet for a while then suggested. “How about a coffee? We can have one sent up to the room if you’d like. I’d love a cappuccino.” Storm agreed the thought was tempting.
“Let me just help clear away a bit, then I’ll be up. I’ll bring them up – save the staff. No sugar, right?”
Kathryn entered the room, feeling her head swimming a little. She realised she must have had more to drink than she’d thought. ‘Oh well, a cappuccino will fix that.’ she decided. She’d just finished showering and putting on her night things when she heard the knock on the door.
“Only me! I can’t unlock the door, my hands are full.” Kathryn opened the door and stood back while Storm walked in carrying two steaming hot cups.
Kathryn forced eyelids apart, a dull pain nestled in behind them. She emitted a soft groan as she lifted one hand to shield her eyes from the brightness of a typical African day.
Hazy memory returned and, this time, the groan was heartfelt. How could she have been such an idiot? The blood rushed to her face as some of her words and actions from the night before came back with full force. She gingerly turned her face towards the other bed and sighed with relief when she saw it was empty. With an extra effort, she lifted her head from the pillow, checking to make sure that the en-suite door was open and the room empty. She laid her head back, her immediate worries eased.
What had she done! Why had she done it?
“Oh, God! I’m never going to drink again! I swear!” The reason for the oath was twofold – the pure agony of the aftermath…..and the loss of self-control while influenced by the alcohol. Her attention was captured by a piece of paper under her bedside clock. With trepidation, she reached for it and found it folded, with her name on the front. She opened it up and read the brief note from Storm.
‘Will be out for the day.. I’ll meet you and the guys at Ramambo’s at 7.30 tonight.’
Kathryn lay back in bed, grateful that she wouldn’t have to face Storm for a while. She tried to evaluate the damage she’d done. Obviously she’d shown Storm that the attraction she felt for her hadn’t diminished in the last week. ‘Damn that song!’ Kathryn remembered how, as Storm had arrived with the hot drinks, the words to ‘The Air That I Breathe’ had been beating through her mind. The memory of Storm’s eyes meeting and holding her own in the restaurant while she’d sung the words that told of how making love to Kathryn would leave left her ‘peaceful, warm and tired’. How there was ‘nothing more to ask, nothing else to be desired – no sleep, no light, no sound, nothing to eat, no books to read’.
Lying in bed, Kathryn could feel again the satiny texture of Storm’s skin when she’d reached for the younger woman, telling of the need within her. Anguish hit Kathryn as memory rushed back of what had followed. Storm’s words, though gently spoken and sympathetically delivered, had still pushed her away, had still rejected her. Storm had told Kathryn that they must come together, without any outside influences. There must be no alcohol, no romantic setting. There had to be just the two of them, knowing that they needed and wanted each other.
In the cold light of day, Kathryn felt an enormous relief that Storm had not allowed the passion that Kathryn had felt, to dictate their actions. She was fully decided that never would she let that situation happen again and never, never, would she go to Storm in cold blood and ask for her love!
Kathryn consciously stirred the dying embers of the coals of anger within her. How could she even have thought of starting an affair with Storm, who was renowned for her callous treatment of lovers, her careless playing with their hearts before moving on to the next victim. Kathryn realised, belatedly, that it was her own very reluctance that had spurred Storm on to make a conquest of her. ‘As soon as I’d succumbed and she’d tried something ‘different’ she would’ve lost interest.’ Kathryn thought angrily, ignoring the insistent voice that asked ‘If that was the case, why did she stop me, last night?’
She threw back the covers and climbed out of bed, the dull ache in her head cutting off her thoughts as she found a couple of aspirins and washed them down with an orange vitamin drink, vowing once more to embrace abstinence in future!
Cloud, Jim and Kenny walked to Ramambo’s that night with Kathryn, unaware that their companion looked forward to the evening with misgivings. Kathryn had told them that Storm was meeting them there and Kenny had been the only one to look a little askance at Kathryn, sensing a tension in her voice. Cloud was busy ruing having to leave all the Zimbabwean women he’d met and he made everybody laugh with his comment that ‘Australian women just didn’t understand him!’ Knowing his reputation as a lady killer wherever he happened to be, Kathryn joined in the raillery, glad that she was, once again, clear-headed.
They had been shown to their seats by a courteous waiter and Kathryn had her video camera at the ready, when Storm hurried in.
“Sorry, guys!” She spoke to the table in general. “I must’ve just missed you at the hotel. I decided to nip back to shower and change.” Storm was wearing a summer dress and sandals and Kathryn realised it was the first time she’d seen Storm in a dress, while not performing and she had the fleeting thought that that was a shame.
Conversation became general as the newcomers were fulsome in their praise for the décor and, later in the evening, for the quality of food. When Shakehim and his troupe came on, they all took turns in capturing the performance on camera. Jim was unusually vociferous and had high praise for the act. He made a couple of suggestions as to venues in Perth, where he thought they’d be a hit.
Cloud gently teased Storm throughout the meal about her wearing a dress, asking who was the lucky man that she’d dressed up for.
“It can’t be Kenny. He’s in shock, just at the sight of you! I don’t think it’s Jim, even though you both seemed to have called a truce while we’ve been here. No, I don’t think it’s Jim. He looked around, as if looking for a suitable candidate and was rewarded by an unladylike punch on the arm from a grinning Storm who, nevertheless, still wore a slightly embarrassed expression.
Once dinner had been consumed with much relish, a singularly quiet Kenny asked if they would all excuse him as he had someone he was meeting. When he’d left, Jim said with an unusually perceptive sensitivity that Kenny was one person who wasn’t looking forward to their return to Perth.
“He’s in love!” Cloud made the statement. Kathryn was surprised, as she’d thought his regular disappearances were just his need to socialise in general.
“I haven’t seen him with anyone. Who is she?” She asked the table in general but neither Cloud nor Jim answered. Storm studied her for a moment before replying.
“Kenny’s a very private person. He doesn’t like mixing his personal life with business.” ‘Well, that put me in my place, didn’t it?’ Kathryn felt a little put out, even a little hurt. ‘He obviously classes me as a business colleague only.’ She didn’t allow her hurt to show in her face as Cloud smoothly changed the subject.
They all enjoyed their various desserts and, as Kathryn rose from her chair to visit the ladies room, she asked her dinner companions to order her a flat white coffee, if the waiter returned for orders.
When Kathryn returned to the table it was to find Storm alone.
“Cloud and Jim said to say good-bye, they wanted a last fling on the night-club scene. I think Cloud is worried he may have missed one or two women!” Kathryn guessed that Storm had had something to do with the timing of their leaving. This was borne out when Storm brought up the subject.
“About last night……” She was interrupted by the waiter arriving with the coffees. Kathryn was able to compose herself so that, when the waiter left them alone, she put up her hand, stopping Storm from continuing.
“Hey! I was an idiot last night. I’m sorry if I embarrassed you and I promise you that it will never happen again. Never! I think, from now on, it will be strictly business between you and I. I presume that is agreeable to you?” Storm slowly shook her head.
“Kathryn, Kathryn. You know I don’t want that.”
“Well, that’s the way it has to be.” Kathryn drained her cup. “If you’ve finished, we’d better be going.”
As they left the restaurant, both women were preoccupied with their own thoughts. Kathryn noted subconsciously that the streets were very quiet, the police and security units having been stood down at the completion of the conference.
The women started the short block and a half walk back to the hotel with a gap between them that, in Storm’s mind, had become a gulf. She took a deep breath, once more ready for battle.
“Kathryn, please…..” Her voice trailed off as she saw that the young man, who had emerged from the alleyway in front of them and had walked past them, had taken Kathryn’s attention. Storm got the fleeting impression of gleaming black skin, red shirt, black trousers; a clean cut young man. Her first inkling of danger was when a second man came out of the same alleyway in front of them, effectively bracketing the two women between them. Storm heard Kathryn’s voice, determined and unafraid.
“Oh no you don’t!” She turned towards the sound and then felt a sudden pull as her bag was dragged from her side. Her fingers gripped the strap tighter, determined not to let the thief have the bag. The man had purchase on the bag with both hands and was methodically jerking on it. Storm felt the pain of the strap as it dug into her fingers but continued the tug-of-war. She vaguely realised that she had been pulled around the corner into the alleyway and felt a frisson of fear being added to her anger.
“Let go, you bastard, you’re not bloody well having it!” Storm heard her own words and similar ones from Kathryn. There was no sound from the men, just a single-minded determination.
Kathryn knew they were in trouble from the start. She knew that prudence dictated that they should let go of their possessions but her attacker had hold of the video camera, the straps digging deep into her fingers. ‘Damn it! I want that tape!’ She wasn’t as worried about the camera as the memories it contained. The man in the red shirt pulled once more and, this time, Kathryn went with the pull, generating forward momentum. The man was caught off-guard and stumbled backwards and she caught him with a swift kick, missing the intended target area but hearing a grunt nevertheless as her foot caught his thigh. As she prepared for another kick on her off-balance attacker, she caught sight of Storm being pulled to her knees and heard the snap of the shoulder bag’s strap as Storm was left holding the thin strip of leather. The man turned and ran up the alleyway and, as Kathryn second kick landed on flesh, she felt the pull on her fingers ease as the man in the red shirt dropped the camera and chased after his more successful partner.
Storm was quickly on her feet, running after the men as fast as her dress and sandals would let her.
“Storm, no!” Kathryn’s voice echoed in the alley. They heard the sound of a car engine being gunned and headlights suddenly illuminated the far end of the alley. Kathryn watched as the two men jumped into the moving car and the tail-lights disappeared around a corner, leaving Storm slowing to a walk.
The pain in Kathryn’s hand was growing and she looked down to see swelling and the beginning of extensive bruising.
“Fuck!” Kathryn’s expletive was heard clearly by the returning Storm but not by anybody else, as there apparently had been no witnesses to the attack. “Are you OK?” She asked Storm, glancing down at the twin tracks of blood trickling down her shins. Storm shrugged.
“I’ve had worse. Jesus! I’m so jacked off! The bastards caught us on the hop!” She looked down at Kathryn’s hands. “You kept hold of the camera then. My bloody strap broke. Shit!” This last was aimed at herself as tears of shock stung her eyes. Kathryn didn’t see the tears, relief that they were safe beginning to be replaced by anger.
“Come on. Let’s get to the hotel and ring the police!”
“Everything! You had everything in there?” Kathryn could feel her anger growing and she didn’t make any attempt to curb it, wanting to hit out at someone – anyone! “Not just passport and money but your ticket home as well? For God’s sake, why? How many times did people warn you?” Kathryn’s hand was throbbing, the ache almost intolerable.
They had just spent two hours with a couple of policemen in the foyer of the hotel. They had recounted the incident and had even walked back to the scene with one of the policemen to re-enact what had happened. They had filled out, in triplicate, just what they’d had stolen. Kathryn had not wanted to go to a hospital in Harare at midnight to have her hand looked at and Storm’s grazed and cut knees had looked clean enough. David had not been located in the hotel, so they had dealt with everything themselves. Storm had just finished bathing her knees in their room when Kathryn had started her angry tirade.
Storm looked up from her seated position as Kathryn paced the room.
“My decision, my choice, my risk!” She answered shortly.
“Yes; and now everyone gets put out because of it! We’re going to have to spend all day tomorrow, our last day, trying to get a temporary passport for you, reporting the theft of the travellers cheques and hoping to God that Qantas issue you with another ticket! Great way to spend our last day!” Kathryn knew that the level of her anger wasn’t rational but it comforted her somehow, to have a shield of anger between them. She walked into the bathroom once more to run cold water over her fingers. Storm followed, curious as to why Kathryn was making the frequent trips. She caught a glimpse of Kathryn’s swollen, bruised hand and gasped.
“Kathryn, you need to have that seen to!” She looked more closely. “Those fingers look broken to me!”
“Nonsense! I can move them. Look!” A spasm of pain crossed her face as she bent the two middle fingers, which had borne the brunt of the battle for the video camera. Storm looked sceptical, unconvinced by Kathryn’s performance but sensing that Kathryn didn’t want to discuss it further.
“Jeez, I wish I’d thought of moving forward into the bastard, instead of trying to pull against him. Where did you learn that trick?” Kathryn wasn’t to be placated, however. She shrugged.
“Saw it somewhere, I guess. Look, it’s almost 1 a.m. I’m going to try to get some sleep. We’ll have to have an early start.” She brushed past Storm and climbed into bed.
Storm sat at the small desk and picked up the phone.
“I’ll try not to disturb you too much. I’m just going to ring the travel insurance company’s 24-hour number to report the theft and I’ll have to cancel my Visa card. A call to the Australian Consulate to report the stolen passport might as well be done now as well. I’ll try not to be too long.”
Kathryn was surprised by Storm’s practicality, once again being thrown by the young woman’s out-of-character maturity.
The taxi dropped off a very weary Kathryn at her house at 4.30 in the afternoon of their arrival back in Australia. She turned the key and, with a sigh of relief, walked into the cool interior. The house was, as expected, tidy and clean. That was the beauty of having a house-sitter look after the house when she went away. Her musings were interrupted by a bored ‘meaow’ from the doorway as first George, then Mildred sauntered in from the bedroom. ‘Hi Mum, glad you’re home — are you going to feed me?’ Kathryn interpreted their greeting. She scooped them up for a cuddle, admonishing both on their weight gain.
“Lisa’s been listening to you both way too much again, I can see.” A kiss on each feline nose took the sting out of her threats of dieting!
Kathryn removed her jacket before relaxing into her armchair, thanking God that she was home and the turmoil of the last couple of days was firmly behind her. She admitted to herself that Storm had, in fact, done most of the work of cancelling or replacing the stolen documents. David had been shocked when he’d heard about the robbery and was most apologetic that he’d been unavailable when they’d needed him most.
They had boarded the plane with Storm’s replacement ticket and passport in hand. A fruitless final day visit to the Harare Police Headquarters and then to the basement to look through recovered stolen goods had jarred already strained nerves, though Kathryn had itched to share with Storm her amusement at the market-like atmosphere in the basement. The President of World Vision had been grieved to hear that a visitor to his country had been treated so badly and had offered what help his organisation could give. Kathryn had had little time to worry about the pain in her fingers beyond wrapping them together with tape. They continued to throb however and Kathryn felt that at least one of them was broken.
Little contact between herself and Storm had been possible or even looked for. She had tried to maintain the frigid atmosphere between them and succeeded all too well, both on the last day in Harare and on the flight back to Perth.
Saying good-bye to David had been hard, especially when she saw the hint of tears in his eyes as he said his farewells to them all.
“Come and visit me in Perth.” She’d impulsively offered. “Come on, make a promise that you’ll come and stay with me very soon.” David had nodded his agreement, his eyes lighting up at the prospect of a trip to Perth.
Now that Kathryn was home, there was plenty for her to do. The tour of the South West by ‘The Stormclouds’ was due to start the following Thursday night, giving them a week to recover from their trip and plan the repertoire for their performances. A few last-minute arrangements were needed for the season at the ‘Crown’ and the final contracts to be signed. Kathryn had some catching up to do with her athletes, Aaron Styles, Justin North and Pete Fleming. She’d have to see how their training was going, check on their various sponsors, see if the contracts were working out and check with their coaches as to what competitions they wanted to enter in the upcoming season, in order for her to arrange appearance money from the competition organisers. All three athletes were certain starters in the Olympics, barring injury and each one had a realistic chance of a medal so she had great bargaining powers for them.
Kathryn was glad of the busy schedule, as her plan was to throw herself into work to keep body and mind occupied so she could forget the feelings that had been awakened in Zimbabwe.
The man recapped how things were going. ‘The new job’s going pretty well. You arrived back in Perth today from your little jaunt overseas. Things are falling into place beautifully, my love. Shall I call you? Or maybe try to catch a glimpse of you at your house? Or should I leave it, draw out the anticipation? Just waiting until you come to me. What will you say when you see me at the Crown I wonder. Yes. I will wait. I can wait, you know. I know you’ll be worth it. I know it.’
Kathryn did throw herself into work, forgetting to go to the doctors, ignoring the pain in her fingers and finally deciding that it was too late to do anything anyway. The swelling had subsided a little and the colours had lightened through purple to a yellow-tinged blue. There was a distinct kink to one of the fingers that looked as if she would have to live with. She shrugged. Her days were spent dealing with matters relating to the athletes and her evenings were taken up with going over old cases and writing up notes on them. She still hadn’t found a formula for the book but knew that the background notes would be useful, however she planned the book.
The tour details were planned and booked to Kathryn’s satisfaction. She had struck a hard bargain with the venues the band would be playing at, as she was determined not to sell the band short. She did not intend to accompany the band on their tour, citing a busy schedule for herself. She had, however, employed Joe, an old friend, as road manager for the two-week duration to help with the transport and setting up of equipment at the various locations. It would be his job to make sure each venue had enough room on stage and that the sound equipment was up to scratch. Kathryn had not been able to resist asking him to keep a weather eye on Storm as this was the first test of their new image on home soil and she was depending on them to pass it. She hadn’t spoken to Storm since their return but in a telephone call to Cloud had learned that they had been rehearsing a couple of Storm’s new compositions and they planned to try them out towards the end of the tour. Cloud had been excited with the pieces.
“They are so wicked, boss. Just wait ’til you hear them.”
At the last minute, Kathryn decided to drive to Bunbury for the band’s first gig on tour. She wanted to share in their public metamorphosis. She wanted to see for herself the reaction of the audience to their emergence as an entertainment band. She also wanted to give them the exciting news she’d received that day; that CBM Records, after showing an initial interest in the demo tapes and then requesting a video tape, had booked an appointment for Kathryn to meet with the legendary Judith Montgomery. Ms Montgomery was well known in the music industry as the ‘star-maker’ and her reputation of picking only the best — and making that best even better was an exciting concept for The Stormclouds’ manager. The guru’s record production was first class and the final mixed product was always as good as it could get. Kathryn had heard that she was a hard task master and hoped that the trepidation she felt about possible upcoming battles between this woman and Storm was exaggerated and misguided.
Kathryn didn’t once, on the two-hour drive down to Bunbury, admit to herself that she also just wanted to see Storm.
The performance had started well. Over a hundred people were packed into the small back room at the Bunbury Seaview Hotel. Kathryn guessed that the majority of the audience were around her own age, as that had been the target group in the advertising. She was glad to see a good sprinkling of younger clientele however as they were the ones who actually bought the albums.
There was a small group of youngsters down at the front that she was a little concerned about, as they had seemed to expect the old Stormtroopers-type performance. There had been a bit of heckling already and the band had ignored them but when one of the young men shouted out.
“Come and fuck me, Storm. I’m big and hard for you.” Storm stopped singing and walked to the edge of the stage where she hunkered down and leaned towards the heckler, bringing her mouth close to his ear. The microphone didn’t catch her words but they brought a dull flush to the young man’s face and a shout of laughter from his friends. They turned away from the stage just as the bouncers arrived to escort them out. Storm winked at the bouncers before standing and bringing the mike close to her mouth.
“Sorry about that folks. Just a case of mistaken identity.”
Kathryn was impressed by the composure shown by Storm and the ease with which she’d carried off a potentially explosive situation. Later in the evening, however, she was discomposed to overhear a fan say to a friend that she would never have guessed that Storm was gay. Kathryn wondered just what Storm had done and the long drive home was spend wondering if Storm had just ‘come out’ as such or whether the remark to the ex-fan would be taken as an amusing put down and no credence put onto it.
Kathryn had no opportunity of talking alone with Storm but, when she told the band the news of her appointment with Judith, Storm was as pleased as the other guys. They all had questions that, in most cases, Kathryn didn’t have answers for. Storm had demands.
“I’ll e-mail you all with the details after the meeting. Trust me, I’ll be working hard for you in all the negotiations and, yes Storm, you will be able to look through the contract before I agree to it. Yes, Storm, I’ll make sure you have a huge say in the selection of songs on the CD and which will be the single release. Listen. You guys just concentrate on the tour and I’ll concentrate on my job, hey?” This was said with a smile that took the edge off the words. She saw Storm hesitate for a second and feared an explosion but then saw the younger woman shrug and nod slightly.
Kathryn met Judith Montgomery in her own office and very soon realised that the facts she’d been given about the woman were somewhat lacking. It didn’t need personal intuition to perceive that not only was Judith gay but she was a very ‘out’ gay. There was no self-consciousness about Judith. Her clothes, her voice, her actions all proclaimed ‘I am a lesbian – take me as I am or …..’
“Call me Jude.” was the first barked command as she strode around the room, her jacket swinging open, revealing a white shirt. She glanced perfunctually at the view from the window before resuming her pacing and her monologue. Her words were clipped and to the point. Kathryn turned her chair constantly to watch Jude roam the room, her hands gesticulating as she fired questions at Kathryn. She kept flicking an errant lock of brown hair out of her eyes, too impatient to use her hands, they had more important things to do.
“Now, Kate — I can call you Kate can’t I? Much quicker. As you know the studio time is at a premium. These guys must be prepared to work long hours. Way into the night, you know? We’ll get the rhythm and the drums down first then get the lead in the bag before we start on the vocals. You sure they’ve got enough good material for a full CD? Don’t want any crap you know.” She waited impatiently for Kathryn’s nod before continuing her pacing and questions. “OK. I liked the four tracks you sent me and I gotta tell you, that Storm is certainly something up there on stage. She writes all the material, you say?”
Kathryn answered slowly, trying to slow the tide a little.
“Yes, she writes the original material. She seems to be able to roll them out regularly enough. However they do excellent covers as well, especially songs from …..”
“Yes, yes: but these will all have to be originals. When are they due back? Next week isn’t it? Well, the earliest I can get studio time will be a week Monday. We’ll make it 6.30 in the evening. Warn them it’ll be a long night. I’ll just need Cloud — God, what a name — and …is it Jim or Kenny? Yeah, Kenny, that’s right.
“You get over to see Tony in the office tomorrow and work out all the contract stuff. Don’t let him give you too hard a time with it. The bastard knows I want you. Talking of which, how d’you feel about coming out for a coffee with me sometime?” Kathryn was caught unawares. What did the woman mean? What was she asking? She didn’t wonder for long.
“C’mon, Kate. We’re big girls now. Come out for a coffee — no, make that lunch. How about Wednesday? I promise not to make any unwanted moves.”
Kathryn knew that her cover had been pierced and she felt a touch of intrigue and anticipation about going on a date and being able to act as herself again. She looked at the intense woman who was leaning over her chair and found herself agreeing to a time and place.
“Great, Kate. I’ll see you there.” Jude spun around, grabbed her keys and mobile phone from the table and strode out of the door. Kathryn felt as if a cyclone had just left. She tipped her chair back and tried to capture a picture of the woman but only came up with fragments — medium height, a little stocky, late twenties at a guess and eyes that burned with an intensity that over-rode their colour. Overall the impression was of energy as opposed to substance and Kathryn felt drained. For a fleeting second she wondered what she had got herself into.
The meeting with Tony at CBM on the following day had gone well and Kathryn was quietly pleased with the results, sure that she’d got as good a deal as she could for her charges. The lunch date with Jude was also a success, surprisingly for Kathryn. When not talking work or music, Jude slowed her speech and lost the urgency of her movements a little. She was still a strong personality but was easier to cope with. She spoke a little about her own background and impressed Kathryn with her obvious resilience in the face of opposition and outright discrimination. She had been aware of and had broadcast her sexual orientation at sixteen years of age and she had battled in a male dominated industry since she’d entered the music world. She had subsequently earned the respect of her peers with a combination of hard work and natural talent.
Jude became bored with the subject of herself.
“What about you Kate? I get the impression you’re a wee bit closeted. Why?” Kathryn gave her own potted history, skipping lightly over the pain and re-iterating her satisfaction with the current situation.
“Bullshit!” Jude was off and running, obviously over a well-worn path. “How can you deny your own self, Kate? It’s part of your make-up. A big fucking part — excuse the pun. Why are you so scared of what people will think? You’ve proved you can do your job, you have friends that like you. Why do you think that would change if people knew the real you?”
The questions and demands had continued through coffee, with Kathryn arguing a little, smiling a little but remaining adamant. Jude was exasperated and promised to change things. Kathryn was alarmed.
“Judith, don’t out me. I would be really angry if you did. Not even a hint.” Judith laughed.
“I didn’t mean that, for God’s sake. I’d never do that to anyone. No, I just thought a little seduction on my part may go a little way towards you wanting everyone to know.” She punctuated the words with a comical waggle of the eyebrows. Kathryn thought of the strain between Storm and herself and, for a moment, was tempted to go along with the charade and use Jude to drive Storm away. She realised immediately that she couldn’t do that to either Jude or herself. She shook her head.
“No. It’s OK really, Jude. I’m quite content with the way I am.”
“Hmm. I’m beginning to wonder about that. There’s definitely something you’re not telling me. I’ll find out what it is, don’t you worry.
Jude settled the bill and they both stood to leave. Jude leaned across and planted a firm kiss on Kathryn’s cheek.
“Thanks for your company for lunch. Make sure you get your charges to the studio on Monday, week. Six thirty sharp.” A quick wave of the hand and she was gone, leaving Kathryn with a feeling of uneasy camaradie.
Kathryn sent out a press release, giving some details of the recording contract with CBM and was gratified that it was reported in full. On Thursday she picked up the West Australian daily newspaper and the weekly music paper ‘Music Xpress’. With a hint of anxiety she looked for the review pages, scanning down to find any reference to the band’s tour gigs. She didn’t have to look far in the Xpress, the headline grabbed her attention.
MAKE-OVER BAND MAKE MAGIC MUSIC
‘Perth band ‘Stormclouds’ rocked into Albany and wowed the local audience with their seductive and stirring performance at the Albany Windsor Hotel on Sunday night. Gone was the hard-core rock sound of the old “Stormtroopers’ and in its place we heard a versatile mixture of slow ballads, clever covers and some stirring up-beat material. The lead singer, Storm, was funky, sexy and raunchy in turn and had the audience wrapped around her little finger. Her cover version of the Shania Twain hit ‘Man, I feel like a woman’ had everyone on their feet, very glad that she was one. Including this writer!
The highlight of the show was the debut performance of the band’s two new numbers. ‘All Night with me’, is a haunting silver-toned melody that seemed to be wrung from her heart. And ‘Look into my Eyes’, a slightly jarring in-your-face piece with unusual riffs and a beat that reverberates through to the soul!
If any band deserves a recording contract with CBM it’s Stormclouds’. Watch out for their CD — it’ll be hot!’
Kathryn re-read the article with a feeling of fierce pride. She picked up the ‘West’ and, though not in such glowing terms, the revue was very positive and also mentioned the two songs. Kathryn was disappointed that she hadn’t heard them on their first public airing but looked forward to Storm performing them at the Crown the following weekend. The image of Storm on stage brought with it a rush of desire that sprang out of nowhere, fast and feral; and a surge of dizziness rolled through her head before she could regain control of herself once more.
Storm checked out the garden set-up of the Crown on the day before their first performance there and liked what she saw. Jonathon Reece had invited her to have a look around and make any necessary suggestions. There was plenty of space for her to move around and the lighting and speakers were all top class equipment. The entire stage and dance floor was under cover and most of the sitting area was likewise protected from the elements, so rain wouldn’t be any trouble.
While Storm was talking to Jonathan, a tall shapely woman walked in and was introduced as Jenny, Jonathan’s wife. Storm was surprised but gratified at Jenny’s artless enthusiasm for the band.
“I knew Kathryn was on a winner.” She asserted. “Kathryn can really pick ‘em, you know. I’d back anything she thought was a good thing. I’ve seen your tapes. You are really good. I can’t wait to see you play here.” She slipped her hand into Jonathon’s large one and Storm saw the love in her eyes as she looked up at him. “She’ll be the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ won’t she, darling?”
Storm liked Jenny immediately, liked her obvious adoration of Jonathon and admired the strength needed to be able to display it so ingenuously. She felt her own built-in defences lower slightly as Jenny reached up to kiss Jonathon’s cheek and tell him that Storm and herself were going to have a coffee in the lounge and a nice chat.
Storm found herself telling Jenny about the trip to Harare, enthusing about the safari and the one-day visit to Victoria Falls. She related the disappointment and trauma of the last day or so and told Jenny how angry Kathryn had been.
“Oh, don’t you worry about Kathryn. Her bark’s always worse than her bite. She was probably feeling guilty that she hadn’t looked after you properly. She’s a big softie inside. To tell you the truth, I’ve been a little worried about her since she’s been back in the country. Well, for a start, we’ve seen her three times in the last couple of weeks and that’s unusual in itself. She’s usually much too absorbed in her work to find the time to socialise. She keeps going off in a dream, her mind far away. Tell me …. “ Jenny paused, reaching out and touching the back of Storm’s hand. “I’m not just being nosy you know, as I really care about her: but … did she meet anyone over there? I thought maybe she and David …”
Storm shook her head, putting an end to the tentative suggestion.
“No. There was nothing between Kathryn and David. They’re just friends. I didn’t see anyone else on the scene at all. Sorry, I can’t help you there.”
“Oh well, we’ll just have to look after her, eh? Get her back to her old self again.”
On the Sunday afternoon, the band arrived at the Crown early – to give Joe, who had been taken on as their part-time ‘roadie’, a hand with the equipment. Storm was looking forward to the performance and to singing her new songs to Kathryn. She hadn’t seen Kathryn since their return earlier in the week. She knew that kd would recognise that the songs had been written especially for her.
As they were setting up the equipment, Jonathon walked in with another man, whom he introduced as Alan Mills, the assistant manager.
“Alan’s not been with us very long and one of his duties is looking after the guest performers. If you need anything at all, just ask Alan.” The men all shook hands and Storm reached out her hand also. Alan’s handshake was soft and a little damp. He held on for a fraction of a second too long, causing Storm to look up into small, golden eyes and a slight shaft of recognition made her frown slightly. She hadn’t recognised the name but the blond hair and golden eyes seemed vaguely familiar. She was about to ask whether they’d met before, when Joe’s voice was heard from the set, asking for some help. Storm smiled briefly at Alan and turned to help the roadie.
They weren’t due to start until 6:30 p.m., so they decided to have a quick snack first, having missed out on lunch. They left Joe in charge of the equipment while he happily played with knobs and dials. When they returned they all waved and said hi to the bouncers, who were known from plenty of previous gigs. It was always handy to get to know the bouncers,as you never knew when they may come in handy. Storm smiled at the two of them, commenting that they should have a pretty easy night of it.
“Classier joint for us all, this one. Must be going up in the world, eh?”
They looked around in the semi-darkness of the heavy shade. There was a small group of customers at the out-door bar, trying to talk above the noise of the current song being played by the DJ. The area was filling up nicely and Storm searched the new faces for Kathryn, without success. They got their bottles of water and Jim and Kenny picked desultorily at their guitar strings, getting in some last minute tuning.
The semi-darkness was pierced with flashing, coloured lights, adding a sparkle to the surroundings, making them surreal and magical. The dancers in front of the stage, with just a hint of the pungent smell of hot bodies, that would later fill the area. Then there was the noise and the tempo of the current song. Storm knew the decibel level would rise once they started playing and the acoustics would reverberate into the stage and bounce off, into the ears of the crowd. The excitement of performing was always enhanced for Storm by this gamut of sensations, filling her mind and body.
Kenny nodded at Storm that he was right to start, a drum roll told her that Cloud was ready and Jim gave a small nod. A slight movement of the hand from Storm brought the vigilant Alan onto the stage to introduce the new act. The surrounding area had rapidly started to fill and Storm had another quick look around and caught a glimpse of Kathryn, at the bar, leaning forward to listen to her companion, a man Storm didn’t recognise.
During the first set of songs, Storm’s eyes kept straying to Kathryn, hungry for the sight of her. It took the whole of the first three songs before Storm’s interest switched to Kathryn’s companion. A second look made her realise her mistake. Though dressed like a man, it was definitely a woman who was leaning towards Kathryn and talking into her ear. One hand rested on Kathryn’s knee in a way that looked way too familiar to Storm. The singer’s eyes flashed with annoyance. Storm turned to the band and said she wanted to finish the set with ‘Gloria’. They shrugged at the change in the program but trusted Storm’s intuition on how the performance was going.
The first bars of the song started and Kathryn’s head turned fully to the stage and a finger indicated to her companion that she wanted to listen to the band. She squeezed the hand that still rested on her knee, to take the sting out of the gesture and Storm saw the answering pressure.
‘Will you marry for the money?
take a lover in the afternoon?’
‘Who the hell is she?’
‘Feel your innocence slipping away
don’t believe it’s coming back soon.’
‘They look bloody cosy together. What the hell is she up to?’
“Now you really don’t remember
was it something that they said?
All the voices in your head
She’s doing it to piss me off – I just know it!’
The song finished with its normal crescendo, with Storm’s hand on hands, legs apart and head thrown back. The applause was spontaneous and Storm was gratified to know that Kathryn’s attention was now fully on her. Even Kathryn’s companion was standing and clapping.
“Back soon y’all.” Storm waved and followed the guys off the stage. Kathryn waved them all to come over and Storm paused to drink a mouthful of water before wandering across the room. The woman was shaking hands with Cloud when she arrived, a silly grin on her brother’s face. Kathryn repeated the introduction to Storm.
“Storm, this is Jude Montgomery. Jude – Storm McInnes. Jude decided she’d like to see you play live and she’s been most impressed.
“Just wanted to see what I’d be working with.” She told the group in general. Her head nodded. “We’ll be right.”
Later that night, lying sleepless in bed, Storm couldn’t remember all that had been said. She’d found Jude to be abrupt, impatient with trivialities and wanting to monopolise the conversation. Storm had felt her hackles rising but, for once, she’d kept a tight rein on her temper, as she knew that the woman was essential to their success. The guys seemed to like her and Kathryn positively hung on her every word. She’d told the guys straight out that there was to be no messing with her.
“I’m a dyke from way back, fellas, so don’t touch.” She’d glanced at Storm at this time. “I’ll reserve judgement on you, honey.” A smile on her attractive face and a twinkle in the grey eyes, along with the wiggle of the eyebrows showed a sense of humour. Storm recognised that her own animosity sprang from the fact that the woman kept touching Kathryn’s shoulder or hand in the course of the conversation. ‘And if she’d just stop calling her Kate all the time.’ Storm now thought inconsequentially.
The rest of the band had been surprised when she’d opted not to do the two new numbers that night but had accepted it when she’d said she wanted to do some more fine-tuning on them first. They had plenty of other songs in their repertoire to choose from.
Kathryn and Jude had left together, with Jude’s last instructions echoing in their ears.
“See you tomorrow. Six thirty sharp.” Storm had helped the guys and Joe pack up the van. Blowing a kiss at the bouncers, she’d called out to them, “See, told you it’d be an easy night. See ya fellas.”
Kenny had been feeling a little down, missing David, so Storm had gone over to his place. They’d cooked bacon and eggs for a belated supper and sung all the melancholy songs they could think of: starting with the old Walker Brothers hit ‘The sun ain’t gonna shine any more’, through to The fortunes “You’ve got your troubles – I got mine.’
“She remembered me. I saw it in her eyes. She smiled and I could see the promise there. Oh Storm, are we gonna make pretty music together?
I waited and followed you, you know? Back to the pretty boy’s place. He may be getting it tonight but soon, very soon, it’ll be you and me. Just you and me? What are you doing right now, babe? Are you touching him like this….? Or like this?”
His body tensed as the pressure built inside him but soon the tension spurted out of him, to the sound of his own breathing and the murmuring of a name. “Storm. Storm.”
After two weeks of recording, the album was progressing well. It seemed a little disjointed to the actual band but Jude was pleased with it. Storm had found she could tolerate Jude when the business in hand was recording. She respected the woman’s knowledge and she could see that the best was being drawn out of them. It was only when Jude made references to Kathryn and what seemed like many meetings between them, that Storm felt a tightness in her chest.
Storm had spent most of the time at the studio, even when she wasn’t needed for vocals. She occasionally did a turn on the drums to relieve Cloud, with no obvious drop in standard. They brought in a synthesizer and Storm enjoyed experimenting with the different sounds.
Storm was feeling a little stumped: not sure what else she could be doing to persuade Kathryn that her fictitious, previous lifestyle was at an end – without telling her the whole truth. Opportunities to talk to her had been few and far between when she had actually seen her and she was worried that Jude’s influence may enfold and seduce her. Was she already dressing slightly differently? More slacks, less skirts, maybe. She’d even overheard Jude offering to take Kathryn to ‘Adulations’, a gay nightclub that Kathryn would never have frequented previously. Unfortunately for Storm’s peace of mind, she hadn’t heard Kathryn’s laughing refusal of the invitation.
They were to have a welcome break from recording that evening. Jude had told them she had friends over from out of town and was taking them out to dinner. A casual question from Storm elicited the information that Kathryn wasn’t joining the party. Kathryn hadn’t come to watch the band play on the previous Sunday, so Storm had opted to play the two new numbers. Their reception had been all that was desired, getting a huge ovation. Alan, the assistant manager, had been extra effusive with his praise. Storm still wasn’t sure where she’d met him before but it now seemed a little late to ask him. Every one else had been enthusiastic about the performance. Even Johnno, the bouncer, had given her a thumbs-up and said he’d enjoyed it. Mike, the quieter of the two had nodded his agreement.
They hadn’t started recording the words of the two new songs yet but Storm was confident that, when they were played for Jude, they’d be chosen for the album.
Storm’s thoughts veered yet again to Kathryn and Jude. Had they gone to ‘Adulations’ the night before? Had they got together? Storm’s gut twisted at the thought and she made the decision to go onto the attack. Even though it was a Saturday, she’d take a chance on Kathryn being home and go round that very night and try her damnedest to convince Kathryn to want her.
Storm took her time showering and even put on a touch of perfume, that specific, soft fragrance pleasing her. The phone rang and it was a clearly excited Kenny on the line.
“David’s coming to Perth. He’s taking a three-week holiday and spending it here! In his email he says he’ll probably take Kathryn up on her offer of a bed but he hinted that he wanted something a little more open between us. Storm, it’s not going to stuff things up for you now is it? You don’t even need that reputation any more with the new direction of the band and, anyway, I’m sure that now Kathryn knows the real you, she doesn’t believe it anyway.”
“Hey, slow down Kenny. That’s great news about David. Listen, love, you do what you want to do. I’ve grown up a little, lately and I realise that people must be true to themselves. You do whatever is best for you. You’ve shielded me long enough. I’m big enough to do it myself now. I’m really pleased for you, buddy.”
It took a while for Kenny to let her go as his excitement bubbled over. Storm had never heard him like this before, and hoped he’d found the right man at last. When they finally hung up, Storm saw that it was almost 9 o-clock. She was tempted to renege on her plan to confront Kathryn but she gathered her cloak of courage around herself and set off.
The sharp knock on the door startled Kathryn and made both cats jump off their perches and run to the sanctuary of her bedroom. Kathryn pulled her robe around her and approached the front door, glad of the frosted strip of glass down the centre that allowed her to see the silhouette outside. She recognised the figure of Storm and she unlocked the door, standing back, inviting the younger woman to enter. She savoured the elusive fragrance as Storm brushed past her.
“Storm. What a surprise. Come through.” She led the way into the lounge in time to see two sheepish-looking cats creep stealthily back into the lounge. “Great guard cats you two are.” She admonished the unrepentant cats. She turned to Storm and indicated her own apparel. “As you can see, I wasn’t expecting visitors but it’s lovely to see you. Would you like a drink or maybe a cup of tea? Or are you on your way out?”
Storm relaxed into the comfortable armchair and availed herself of the offer of a cool drink. George and Mildred sauntered over and checked her out. As if remembering their last meeting, Mildred sprang up on the vacant lap and circled a few timed before curling up to continue her nap. George wandered over to the other chair to wash himself while he waited for his Mum’s return.
Kathryn carried the drinks into the room and gave one to Storm before lifting the waiting George and re-possessing her chair. George settled onto her knee.
“To what do I owe the pleasure, Storm? How can I help?”
“Oh, I just thought I’d take a chance on you being in. Touch base and all that. There’s no problem at all.” She adjusted the sleeping Mildred to a position that was less precarious. “You did really well with the contract, by the way. It’s the most generous I’ve heard of. Not money-wise, I mean. You know, giving us a big say in things. Not letting them ride roughshod over us. Yeah, you did really well with that.” Kathryn nodded her thanks for the praise. Storm continued, filling the silence again. “The recording’s going really well, I think. It’s hard to know when it’s done in bits and pieces but the couple of tracks that are complete sound really good and Jude thinks they’ll be even better after the final mixing.”
“Yes, Jude’s very happy with it all.” Kathryn observed. “She says you’re all very professional but I would expect nothing less.” She smiled across at Storm. “Jude says your voice has a versatility not often found.” The bubble of resentment in Storm burst without warning.
“Jude says this, Jude says that.” Storm couldn’t restrain herself. “What is it with you and Jude? You seem different when you’re around her. Not as scared of what people might think of you. Not so worried that they may guess you’re gay. You seem to be dressing differently too. Where are the sexy short skirts? It seems like jeans or slacks all the time now. She’s influencing you and, damn it, you’re letting her!” Storm lifted the sleeping cat and stood up, replacing the still slumbering cat onto the chair. She stalked about the room, then looked at the silent, pensive Kathryn. “Well?”
Kathryn nudged the wakeful George onto the floor and stood also, a thoughtful look on her face. Eventually she spoke slowly.
“You know, you may be right, Storm, about Jude’s influence on me. I see her, a person in her own right. Not afraid of what people think of her. Showing them what she can do, not just what she is. I see her in her comfortable clothes, still getting the respect she deserves.” Kathryn paused, then continued. “I love my job. I think I do it well and I think it’s useful to people but I’m beginning to doubt that the concept of changing my own image… is good for me.” She walked towards Storm and searched the face in front of her, for understanding. She spoke deliberately. “I am what I am, Storm: and Jude has helped me face that. So yes, Storm, I am letting her influence me.”
Storm tried to read the meaning of the words in Kathryn’s face but couldn’t tell if she was being told that Kathryn and Jude were lovers. Storm groaned inwardly but her voice was cool when she asked the question. Kathryn turned away and made the decision; in her mind, the only decision. The lie was forced out.
“No!” Storm’s fragile control was lost. She swung Kathryn back to face her. “You didn’t give us a chance, Kathryn, not a chance!” She leaned forward, capturing Kathryn’s lips with her own in a kiss charged with anger, passion and need. She tasted the delicate ambrosia and searched for more. A surge of dizziness rolled through her head. Her mind screamed. ‘Look at me! It’s you! It’s always been you!’ Desire overcame anger and the kiss softened, searched for and found the required response. The feathery tip of her tongue brushed over Kathryn’s lips and she heard a single sound as it slipped past lips, pliant with welcome, like an incoming tide caressing the shore, seeking and exploring, finding Kathryn’s tongue and circling it’s tip.
Storm heard the moan from deep inside Kathryn and her skin felt electric shards where it came into contact with the warmth of the other woman’s body. Her hand began a long, savouring journey inside the robe, feeling the satin of a nightdress and the burning heat within its silky confines. She brushed a finger over an erect nipple, hearing the echo of a gasp from within her mouth, unsure from which body it emanated.
Kathryn slowly, reluctantly withdrew her mouth.
“What are you looking for, Storm?” She groaned.
“I’ve already found it, my love. You just have to catch up with me. God, I’ve waited so long for you. Please don’t make me wait any more.” She claimed Kathryn’s lips once more, demanding a response and Kathryn knew her defences were gone.
The phone rang, a jarring sound in the silence.
“Leave it.” They both said, together. Its raucous tone continued and Kathryn shook her head.
“Hell! I’ll have to get it. Wait right there.” She picked up the receiver and Storm heard, with a sinking heart.
“Oh, hi David. Yes, it’s lovely to hear from you. Well, it’s not the best… no, no, that’s OK if it’s important. I was just off to bed.” Storm raised an eyebrow and Kathryn put a finger across her lips, before her visitor could say anything out loud.
David gave Kathryn the news of his intended trip and Kathryn re-iterated her invitation for him to stay with her. David was grateful but insisted he wouldn’t stay the whole time and wear out his welcome. It became obvious to Storm that David wanted to talk about the present unrest in Zimbabwe and she sat down to wait for the call to end. Eventually, Kathryn was able to bring the call to a close without being rude to her friend. She hung up and explained to Storm.
“David’s coming to Perth and wants to stay with me for a while.”
“I know.” Storm spoke without thinking. Kathryn tipped her head to one side in question. Storm recovered. “I gathered that from your side of the conversation. When does he arrive?”
“Early next week.” Kathryn said, perfunctorily, looking unsure of her next move. She took a step towards the seated Storm and the phone rang again.
“Damn it!” She snatched up the still-warm receiver. “Oh, hi Jude. How are you? Early finish then? No, it’s not too late for a call.” She saw Storm frown and she gestured with her hand for Storm to stay cool. “No, sorry Jude, I can’t make Tuesday. No, I’ve got a friend arriving from Zimbabwe. Well, maybe Thursday. Give me a ring early in the week, hey? OK, talk to you then.”
Kathryn shrugged apologetically to Storm but her guest was already on her feet.
“I think this can be delayed until we’re both free to start something, don’t you think?”
“There’s no need for me to …”
“Yes, there is. I want you and I want all of you. I know you want me. Talk to her next week. Go out on Thursday if you must — but tell her it’s all over.” Storm opened the door and brushed the back of her fingers across Kathryn’s lips — and was gone.
“There’s no need for me to tell her anything.” Kathryn finished the sentence in a whisper to the empty room. “There’s nothing for me to tell her, nothing for me to finish.”
Storm got into her car with a feeling of satisfaction. She remembered Kathryn’s responses and knew that Kathryn could no longer deny them. She knew that Kathryn wanted her, regardless of her ‘past’. ‘I will tell her that she’s the first.’ Storm promised.
Storm pulled up in front of her garage doors and pressed the button on her key ring, activating the remote control doors. As she watched the doors glide down behind her, she caught a glimpse of a face peering at her from the parked car across the street and, just for a second, felt a shiver of apprehension. She wondered if it was the same car that had been sitting there when she’d left home earlier in the evening. In the dark, it was difficult to tell. She made the decision to go to the police, hoping she wouldn’t look like a fool but the phone calls had started up again and, lately, she’d had the uncomfortable feeling of being watched. She also felt the need to please Kathryn, so she made a silent promise to report it, sometime in the next week.
She checked her answering machine and found two messages. The first one was Jude, telling her in her usual clipped voice to be ready for a heavy few days, as they needed to put a wrap on things by Thursday evening. “Be ready for long days and even longer nights. See you Monday, 10 o-clock sharp.” Storm saluted the voice. She had another eight tracks on which to put down the vocals, including her two favourites. All the backing harmony from the guys was already done, as was all the musical content. Now it was her turn and she was looking forward to it.
The second call was from Kathryn, recorded only minutes earlier, while she’d been driving home.
“Hi, it’s me. I’ve got a ripper for you. Who sang ‘Little things?’ I ‘ll bet you don’t know that one. Oh, and Storm. We need to sit down and have a talk about a little bit of fabrication.” Storm was puzzled and wondered who had told Kathryn about her made-up past. She knew Kenny wouldn’t have said anything. Her last thought before slipping into bed was the answer to Kathryn’s test; ‘Dave Berry’ and she smiled, all thoughts of being watched going out of her head.
Kathryn received a call on Sunday morning with an invitation. Aaron Styles’s parents were having a BBQ for the group of athletes and their parents and coaches. Aaron’s shy voice asked if she would be able to join them for the pre-Christmas BBQ and drinks, later on that afternoon. Kathryn had been looking forward to a pleasurable evening watching Storm perform and hoping for some time alone with the girl. The eager note in Aaron’s voice convinced her she couldn’t say no to his offer however, so she put warmth in her tone as she graciously accepted his invitation.
Kathryn left a regretful message on Storm’s answering machine, explaining the situation. Storm heard it with mixed feelings. She’d been hoping to play her special song to Kathryn that evening but, on the other hand, she didn’t want to be alone with her until Kathryn had severed all personal ties with Jude.
The next couple of days were non-stop for Storm. Jude was a hard task-master and pushed herself as much as she did Storm. The guys were all taking a well-earned rest, with Kenny planning when he could meet up with David. Jude wanted perfection and wouldn’t stop until she got it.
“No, no, no! You have to draw out the last word, drop an octave. Come on, let’s go again.” Though Storm had written the songs, she tended to vary the way she delivered the words from gig to gig. Jude was trying to get the best out of every variation and both Monday and Tuesday saw Storm fall into bed after 2 a.m., setting her alarm for 8 a.m.
There had been a couple of quick calls between her and Kathryn but Storm had been too tired to get into any matters of consequence. She was just happy to hear Kathryn’s voice.
“Hi, kd, how’re you going?” Storm answered her mobile phone on Tuesday morning.
“Great, thanks. David’s arriving this evening. Any chance of meeting him with me?”
“No can do, love. The slave driver’s insisting we get a full two tracks in the bag before she lets me out on home leave. Give him my love and tell him I’ll be seeing him at the weekend. The taping will be in the bag by then, with just the final mixing to do – but that’s Jude’s job.”
“I’m really pleased it’s going so well. We’ll have to celebrate really soon.”
“Yeah. Hey, kd, how about this one. ‘Winchester Cathedral?’ There was a pause from the other end.
“Damn. I know the tune and the words but the singer’s gone. Don’t tell me, I’ll remember it by tomorrow.”
“Not fair. You might look it up. Oh, all right then – just for you. Hey, I gotta go. Colonel Klink is waving to me. Take care.”
“You too, my love.” Storm was sure that Kathryn wouldn’t remember it was ‘The New Vaudeville Band’ that sang the song. ‘That’s one up to me.’ She was still smiling when she got to Jude.
David arrived, tired from the long flight. Kathryn packed him off to the spare bedroom with instructions to rest well and that they’d catch up with all the gossip the following morning. David had planned to have lunch with Jonathon on the Wednesday and was also hoping for a chance to see Kenny in the afternoon, so their morning chat consisted of what was happening in Zimbabwe at present. Kathryn was happy to delay her own news, even though she knew she would confide in David, when the time was right.
Over lunch, Jonathon told David of his plans for a surprise birthday party for Kathryn on the following Sunday.
“Jen and I intend to invite the two of you for dinner and then all the rest of the guys from the band and the hotel can come along later in the evening, after the band’s finished. That should be about 9:30-ish.”
“Great idea Jon, she’ll love it.”
Early on the Thursday, David rang Kathryn at work and told her he was going to ‘Adulations’ that night to see who was still on the scene since he’d been in Perth last. He asked if Kathryn wanted to be daring and join him but, remembering her half promise to Jude, she refused.
The phone rang again soon after.
“Hi Kate. Where are we going on this date then? It’s still on, I hope. I deserve a reward for all the hard yakka I’ve put in this week.” Kathryn laughed at Jude’s persistence.
“It’s not a date, Jude.”
“Well, one can only try. OK, I’ll pick you up about 8-ish. We’ll have a bite to eat and see where it goes from there.” The words were suggestive and Kathryn could imagine the fluttering of eyelashes at the other end of the line. She laughed once more.
“You’re incorrigible. Anyway, will you be finished in the studio by then? Storm says you’ve had the whip out all week.”
“Too right buddy. How about coming to watch today? We’re up to the lucky last and we should have it in the can this arvo. Have you got a few hours to spare after lunch?” Kathryn thought she could arrange it and told Jude she’d be there around 1 p.m.
Storm was in the hot studio, perspiration on her tired face. She’d stripped down to the bare minimum, shorts and halter-top but they were damp and clinging to her skin. They’d repeated the same bit over and over again and the earphones were beginning to chafe the skin at the tip of her ears.
There was a knock at the outer studio door and Jude waved through the sound proofed window, indicating that Storm should take a break. She opened the external door for Kathryn to come inside. Storm paused with her water bottle halfway to her lips. She grinned and waved through the glass to Kathryn.
“How’s it going?” Kathryn asked of Jude, without taking her eyes off Storm, drinking in the sight of her.
“We’re having trouble with this one. It should be the easiest but for some reason she’s not into the feel of it. Dammit, this is the one I want to be the first single release. The poor girl’s knackered though. Maybe you’ll bring me some luck.” She turned again to Storm and flicked the intercom switch, speaking into the microphone. “Storm. How about I play the whole thing again, instruments, backing, the lot. Listen to it and get the feel of it and then we’ll try for the whole thing in one hit. OK?”
Storm gave a thumbs up and the three women all listened through earphones, Kathryn hearing the tune for the first time. The drums, guitars and backing vocals all merged, leaving what to Kathryn sounded like a strange void where the words should be. She was caught up with the beat and the rhythm and guessed the words would have to be intense and loud, but relatively slow to match the tempo. Her toe was tapping and her head nodding – sure signs that the tune was capturing her. There were some unusual riffs from the guitars that gave it a quirkiness that Kathryn liked. The last notes faded out and Jude asked Storm if she was right to go for it. A nod from Storm and Kathryn sat with earphones on, Jude having made the adjustments so that Kathryn would hear the backing with Storm’s vocals superimposed over the top. Storm counted out the opening beat then, looking straight at Kathryn, launched into the song.
‘You listen to the words
you believe all the lies
if you want to know the truth
just look into my eyes’
Kathryn was mesmerised by Storm’s eyes that were willing her to listen to the words, willing her to believe.
‘Can’t you see through my disguise?
ple-e-e-ease look into my eyes
I keep the cloak of darkness
Wrapped around my soul
But I need you, babe, to see
The real me
The real me behind the role.
Kathryn mouthed the words ‘I do’, ‘I can’ and Storm launched into the final verse, her voice even stronger, even bigger.
‘The person that the world can see
the image I portray
it’s waiting, just for you to pierce
I’m waiting for that day.’
The final chorus, the voice softened, mellowed, pleading its case.
‘Can’t you see through my disguise
please, look into my eyes
my eyes, my eyes
just look into my eyes.’
The backing faded once more and Kathryn and Storm were left gazing at one another through the thick glass. Jude’s voice couldn’t break the spell.
“Storm, that’s it! I loved the softening at the end. Girl, are we on a winner!” She looked across at the silent woman next to her, then down at the girl in the studio. She saw the look mirrored in both sets of eyes and whistled.
“Phew! It sure is hot in here. Come on through, Storm-girl and let me give you a big old kiss.” Storm’s eyes broke the contact from Kathryn’s and crinkled with amusement. With relief, she removed the earphones and shook the droplets of moisture from the ends of her hair which, over the last few months, had been allowed to grow back to its own golden brown hue. She undid the heavy door and walked through to the ante-room, bringing with her a waft of hot, heavy air. She collapsed onto a chair.
“I’m bushed, Jude. That’s it. I can’t do no more.”
“No need, Storm-girl. That’s all I need. The rest is up to me.” Jude glanced sideways at Kathryn before continuing. “Hey, you want to come out and celebrate tonight. Kathryn and I are heading out on the tiles. Join us if you want.” Storm shook her head, still thinking that Kathryn was going to talk to Jude that night, to break off their affair.
“I can’t. Sorry. I’m just going to have a long soak in the spa, then I’m off to bed. I don’t know how you can do it, Jude. You haven’t had any more sleep than I have, this week.”
“Practice m’dear. Plain old practice.”
Kathryn stood up, wanting to avoid the obvious questions in Jude’s eyes. She turned to Storm.
“I’ll be seeing you tomorrow night at the Crown, Storm. David and I will be coming to watch you. It was a piece of luck for you that ‘The Dynamics’ got themselves double booked. Well, not really. I expect Jon knows when he’s onto a good thing. I reckon you’ll be offered a permanent Friday or Saturday night club spot quite soon.” Kathryn’s hand rested briefly on the younger woman’s shoulder, feeling the warmth through the thin fabric. She glanced at Jude on her way out. “See you at eight then, Jude.”
“Right you are, then.” Jude’s eyes were gleaming, looking forward to questioning Kathryn in full.
While Storm was relaxing in the spa, she received a call from Jonathon. He told her of the plans for a surprise birthday party for Kathryn and, when he heard that the recording was finished, he decided it would be a joint celebration. “All the regulars from the Crown will be going and I know they’ll be rapt that your CD will be out soon. Can you ring Judith Montgomery and invite her, I haven’t been able to catch her. I think everyone’s going to watch you play, then come en masse at about 9.30. See you there.”
Storm wasn’t sure whether Jude would want to go on Sunday after Kathryn had spoken to her and broken things off between them. She didn’t think Jude would be the type to bear a grudge but she might find it a bit awkward. Storm decided to leave a message on Jude’s answering machine, knowing she was out that night. She invited Jude to come to watch the band at 6:30 p.m. and then on to the party at 9:30 p.m.
I caught her watching me the other day. I know she wants me but she seems more cautious nowadays. She’s changed from the old Storm. Her body’s not changed though, thank God. I can’t wait much longer. I need a plan to get us alone. Somewhere we can’t be interrupted, specially by that bloody manager of hers. When we’re alone, she’ll be able to act like she used to.
Kathryn and Jude enjoyed an interesting dinner, with Kathryn attempting to field searching questions throughout the main course. By the time they were relaxing over coffee, Jude’s persistence had paid off, gleaning the fact that Storm and Kathryn were, indeed, attracted to one another.
“So why don’t you move on to the next stage?” Jude wanted to know.
“I just can’t be sure of her, Jude. I know what I’m feeling. There’s no doubt there. I’m in love with the whole person. I know that now, probably have done for weeks. But what about her past? Her reputation of sleeping around and breaking hearts is pretty impressive, you know. How can I be sure she’s not going to go back to her old ways? When I’m with her, I’m sure she feels the same way but when we’re apart … Jude, how do I know that my heart’s safe with her?” Kathryn grimaced at the sound of the melodramatic words.
Jude laughed, softly.
“Don’t forget, that was all with guys, Kate. After she’s been loved by a woman, she’ll know what love really is. People change. You, of all people, know that!” She rested her hand on Kathryn’s. “You can’t ever guarantee against a broken heart, Kate. Ever.” She smiled at her dinner partner. “You were so busy looking at her in the studio today, that you didn’t really see her, or hear the words. I saw and I heard a plea made directly to you – for you to ignore the past, to disbelieve the gossip and lies. To trust her. Can you trust her d’you think?”
Kathryn sat still, contemplating the question.
“I want to trust her, Jude. I’m almost sure that I do. But I don’t want to get hurt again.”
“Are you going to cocoon yourself in your safe little world for the rest of your life?” Jude’s voice was deliberately harsh. “Goddammit girl, you have to go out into the big, bad world as yourself sometime, you know. Now’s the time, I reckon. Come on, we’re outta here. We’re off to Adulations to remind you of what good lovin’s all about. Come on. Grab your jacket and let’s go party.”
Kathryn was swept up in Jude’s enthusiasm and they arrived at Adulations at 11:30 p.m., just as things were beginning to warm up. Kathryn felt a forgotten excitement as she walked through the door of the gay venue. She looked around at the couples standing, talking, dancing, kissing. It could be any old nightclub except it was men dancing with men and women kissing women. She experienced once more the warm feeling of ‘family’ that she’d shunned for so long. She couldn’t stop the smile from breaking out. A quick thought, as to whether Storm could fit in with something like this, brought an immediate answer – yes, of course she could. Not for Storm the worry of innuendo or downright prejudice. She had the strength to cope with anything. Kathryn laughed out loud.
“Come on Jude, let’s dance.”
After an hour or so of dancing and socialising with some of Jude’s friends, Kathryn spied a familiar figure on the dance floor and remembered that David had said he would be at Adulations tonight. She pushed her way through the dancers towards him and, as she got close, she saw he was dancing with a man who’s back was to Kathryn. Sure that David wouldn’t mind her interrupting their intimate dance, she shouted his name above the music and waved her arm to catch his attention. David’s face split into a grin when he saw her there and his dance partner turned to look who he was smiling at.
Kathryn looked at Kenny, puzzlement turning to surprise as she recognised him. She looked at David, whose hand was still resting possessively on Storm’s ex-boyfriend’s hip. A frown appeared on Kathryn’s face as questions and accusations welled up inside her.
“You’ve been leading Storm on all these years.” She shouted, barely being heard above the noise of the blast of the music. Kenny shook his head in denial, then glanced at David who cocked his head to one side, indicating they should all go outside, away from the noise.
Kathryn repeated her accusations when they reached the balcony, the cool night air having no effect on the hot rush of protective anger.
“How could you, Kenny? How could you deceive her? I thought she was your friend as well as your girlfriend.” David put a hand on her shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze.
“It wasn’t like that, Kathryn. Let the lad explain.”
Kenny started at the beginning, explaining how he and Storm had met. He talked about her family life and how hurtful her mother had been.
“It just seemed that whenever Storm was good, she’d be laughed at and called a goody-goody but when she did things that were a little daring or would generally be frowned upon by others, she’d gain her mother’s respect.” Kenny tried to explain.
He told Kathryn how helpful and understanding Storm had been when he’d being going through his own sexual traumas and how they’d made a pact to cover for each other.
“So what about her reputation. You know, the sleeping around bit?” Jude joined them on the balcony in time to hear the question. Both of the women looked at Kenny, waiting for his answer. He shook his head.
“All lies, as far as I know. There may have been some real affairs but I don’t think so.” Kenny was still shaking his head. “I was the back-up steady boyfriend that she had as an excuse. I think most of the stories were spread by the guys who thought that they were the only ones who had missed out -–so they made stuff up. Mind you, she was very good at the leading-on bit. There would’ve been a lot of frustrated guys out there. It was also good for the ‘Storm troopers’ image to have a rebel as a singer.”
Something that Kenny had said triggered a thought in Kathryn’s mind. She veered off the subject, going off at a tangent.
“You said there’d be a lot of frustrated guys out there. I wonder if there’s one that is prepared to take it a little further.” She looked at Kenny, seeing he’d got her drift. She continued with a question. “Has Storm mentioned any more about anonymous phone calls and being watched?
Jude intercepted the question.
“Hey, Storm mentioned something to me only yesterday. She said she was going to follow your advice and call the cops. You reckon there’s really something in it?” Kathryn wasn’t sure but she didn’t like the feeling of foreboding that suddenly overwhelmed her.
“I’ll be happier when I know she’s reported it to the police.”
Jude, like a terrier, then reverted back to the main subject.
“So, it was all play-acting, was it? It certainly fooled you, the expert.” She punched Kathryn on the arm in a playful manner. “So all the men were a fabrication, a defence mechanism. I’d say she’d be feeling a little lonely by now, eh? Maybe needing a little lovin’. Don’t you think, Kate?”
Kenny looked from one to the other, his face a picture of perplexity. He saw the cock of the head by Jude and the slight nod by Kathryn. His face cleared.
“Do you mean …?” Both women turned to him, smiling.
“We certainly do!” They chorused.
Kathryn was busy all day Friday, signing the sponsorship contracts on behalf of ‘her boys’ as she liked to call the trio of athletes. She’d worked hard to get the best deal for them and she was satisfied with the results.
She’d received an invitation for herself and David to go to Jon and Jenny’s on Sunday to celebrate her birthday. As she was planning to watch Stormclouds play their extra gig that night, she felt she could accept the invitation without feeling she’d missed out, yet again, on watching them play. She had hoped to be able to spend her birthday with Storm but she was confident there would be many other evenings to share with Storm and she’d never disappoint her friends. She realised that this would be the perfect opportunity to talk to Jon and Jen, to explain about the changes that were about to happen in her life. She hoped that having David there as an ally might give her confidence.
Kathryn tried to ring Storm in the afternoon but only got the machine. She savoured the voice on the taped message before hanging up. She needed a direct answer to the invitation she meant to give Storm, an invitation for dinner at her place on the following evening.
Storm was rehearsing with the rest of the band for the gig that night. It was a special invitation to play in the nightclub rather than the beer garden and they expected to be playing to an audience of a couple of hundred people. They were to do two long sessions during the night so they needed to pick which songs to play in each session, then hone the balance and the timing of the songs. Because of the hours spent in the recording studio during the previous two weeks, they hadn’t had time to rehearse until that day and Storm pushed them to the limit. There were good-humoured complaints, especially from Jim.
“Hell, Storm, I thought you’d mellowed lately. What’s with the Hitler impersonation?”
“I just want it right for tonight, you lazy sods. It’s a special night. It could be the start of many.” Storm’s smile took the sting out of the words. Jim grinned. In one way he missed the verbal sparring but, in another way, it was ‘Oh, so peaceful’.
Storm and Kathryn didn’t have time to speak together before the band started their first stint on stage. Kathryn sat at the bar with David and watched the lights play their tricks on both the performers and dancers alike. Most of the songs chosen were the heavier, rock numbers, suitable for night-club revellers. The last song of their first session was ‘Look into my eyes’ and it received a rousing ovation, auguring well for its release, as a single, the following month.
Storm arrived at the bar first, with her close-fitting top damp with sweat.
“Jeez, I must be getting old.” She lamented with a sorrowful look. “I’m knackered, with all that jumping around.
“Here, have a water.” Their hands touched as Kathryn handed Storm the bottle. “Tomorrow night?” Kathryn suggested.
“Sorry?” Storm wasn’t sure of Kathryn’s meaning. She looked closely at Kathryn’s face.
“Dinner, tomorrow night, at my place?” Kathryn elaborated, her eyes never leaving Storm’s. “Can you make it?”
“What time?” was the brief reply.
“Seven.” Kathryn murmured as the rest of the band arrived at the bar for a well-earned drink.
The band prepared for their next stint on stage. Storm turned to Kathryn.
“Listen out for ‘All night with me’. It’ll be our second ‘No. 1’ on the charts.” The soft look in her eyes made a mockery of the bragging words. “Listen for it.” She repeated.
The stage was in darkness. A jarring chord from the lead guitar and a spotlight found Jim, head slumped forward as a second chord sounded. A thump, thump on the drums beckoned and enticed a second spotlight, which snared Cloud, legs akimbo – thump thump on the drums.
“Wow!” A scream and three spotlights captured the slight figure behind the microphone.
“Wow!” was repeated, before the words of the song commenced.
‘What you want
baby, I got it.
What you need,
D’you know I got it.
All I’m asking for
is a little respect
When you come home.’
The old Aretha Franklin song boomed out, with Storm’s strong voice doing it full justice. Kathryn could feel the response from the dancers on the overflowing dance floor and the seated audience alike. They loved it and she felt a rush of satisfaction that she’d been able to help harness all that energy into an acceptable act without losing any of its power and sexuality.
‘R. E. S. P. E. C. T.
Find out what you
mean to me’
Without looking, Kathryn knew that Storm’s eyes would be on her. ‘Tomorrow night.’ she silently promised.
It was 1 a.m. before Storm brushed the hair from her eyes and pulled the microphone close to her lips.
“Sorry guys, that’s about it for the night. Just one last little song – a new composition. You’ll find it on the new album. Hope you like it. It’s called ‘All night with me.” There were a few good-natured cat-calls from the audience.
“Pick me. Pick me.”
Storm laughed and waved towards the voices.
“Grab yourselves a partner. Hold them real close. Yeah, that’s right, you cuddle up nice and tight. The words started softly, everyone straining to hear. No backing instruments at this time.
‘Some say my love for you
They say to want you
is a sin
But I want to hold you
all night long.
Please say you will
Please, let me in.’
A guitar strummed, a lilting melody. The strong voice started the chorus.
‘All night with me
Why don’t you stay
all ll night with me.
Does it feel good?
Does it feel right?
Do you feel like staying
all ll night with me?’
The voice softened again, the backing muted.
‘Don’t say to love you
don’t say to want you
is a sin.
Please, want to hold me
all night long.
Please say you will.
Please let me in.’
The music blared, strengthened, to match the voice that sang the chorus.
All ll night with me
Why don’t you stay
all ll night with me
Does it feel good?
Does it feel right?
Do you feel like staying
all ll night with me?’
The music softened for the last verse. Storm allowed herself to sink to one knee, the microphone close to her lips. She looked out, towards where she knew Kathryn was sitting.
‘The sun will set
the sun will rise
You’re safe with me
safe from harm.
The night is ours
look in my eyes.
You hold my heart
look in your palm.’
She stood once more, preparing for the last chorus.
All ll night with me
Why don’t you stay
all night with me.
Does it feel good?
Does it feel right?
Do you feel like staying
all ll night with me?
Yes, you feel like staying
All night with me
Yes! You feel like staying
All night with me
Kathryn’s body tingled as the sensuous voice washed over her, caressing her skin with the words, knowing they were for her alone. Written with love and received with love.
Her jaw tightened as she held back the tears that were threatening to escape. Her throat ached with the strain. At the end of the song, amid the enthusiastic applause and whistles, she escaped to the ‘Ladies’ to try to gain control of herself. When she emerged, the band was grouped around David at the bar. Storm looked into her eyes and Kathryn knew that the singer was aware of the effect the song had had on her. Storm smiled to break the spell.
“Come and join us for a drink, kd. It’s a quickie for me as I’m off to have a good night’s sleep. It’s been a long day and I’ve got another full one tomorrow. Kathryn thought she’d caught the hint of a wink but couldn’t be sure.
George and Mildred kept getting underfoot, sensing a tension in the air that was unusual in Kathryn’s cool house. Kathryn was edgy and excited as she tried to plan what should happen that night, when it should happen, where – and how. At the same time, she was preparing a succulent meal, seductive enough in any language. The crayfish mornay was finished and had been browned, the oven set to keep it warm. The salads were made and the tiny bread rolls ready to heat in the oven. The strawberries and cream were in the refridgerator and the after-dinner mints there as an option. The wine was chilling, even though Kathryn vividly remembered Storm’s words from that disastrous night in Zimbabwe.
Kathryn shooed the cats from under her feet once more as she undressed and stepped into the shower. She was very aware of her body as her soapy hands slipped over the skin, dreaming of being touched, later in the night, by Storm’s hands and lips in just those very places. She lifted her heated face to the cool spray of the shower and forced her thoughts away from the enticing prospect. She considered the clothes she’d chosen to wear. She’d picked out soft, linen slacks and a loose-fitting pale blue top that clung whenever it came in contact with her body. She’d carefully chosen matching underwear, the satin feel of them sensuous to the wearer.
Kathryn was drying herself when the doorbell rang, urgently, interrupting her imaginings.
“Shit, it can’t be Storm already. It’s only six-thirty.” Kathryn told the cats as she grabbed her robe. She looked at the figure through the glass of the front door and saw that it was, indeed, Storm standing there, her fingers drumming impatiently on the door.
Kathryn opened the door, laughing.
“You’re early. We said seven.” Storm strode through the doorway.
“Sorry. I was ready. I couldn’t wait.” Kathryn laughed again, this time at the impetuosity of youth. She looked again and realised her mistake. Here was no adolescent girl. In this woman’s eyes, she could only see the impatience and anticipation of love.
Storm took hold of Kathryn’s hand, leading her to the master bedroom. She flicked the telephone off its cradle on the way past and shut the bedroom door before the cats could follow. She released the hand, retreating from Kathryn a couple of paces.
“No romantic build-up. No alcohol. Just you … and me. If it’s me you want.” She stayed quite still as Kathryn took the two steps needed to close the distance between them. She took Storm’s face in her hand, feeling the slight tremor that belied the young girl’s confident words. Storm breathed in the scent of soap that lingered on Kathryn’s body and her legs felt weak as Kathryn leaned forward and gently pressed her lips onto her own.
“I’ve come to you.” Kathryn murmured. “I want you … just as you are.” Her teeth gently nibbled Storm’s trembling lower lip. “Let me teach you how to really love.”
Storm ran her fingers through Kathryn’s hair, glorying in the texture and weight of it. Her mind seethed with the memories of the last couple of hours. She tried to get the events into sequence but couldn’t quite manage. The experience had been totally sensory. Touch, taste, sound, smell and touch again. There had been no time for thoughts or decisions. Pure instinct had taken over, with Kathryn’s, the guiding hand. Movement followed movement, sometimes in sequence, sometimes in disarray. The touch of her fingers on the tensed muscles of Kathryn’s back. The taste of Kathryn’s mouth. The sound of whimpers in the semi-darkness. The aroma of soap mingling with an unknown, heady essence Storm now knew could only come from lovemaking. The feel of Kathryn lips as they burned a trail over her own sensitised skin.
Storm sensed that Kathryn’s eyes were open, watching her, trying to gauge the novice’s thoughts. She lowered the line of her sight from the lustrous hair to the searching eyes, seeing both love and query there. She smiled as she traced a finger down Kathryn’s strong face, across the cheeks and along the slightly swollen lips. She leaned across and replaced the finger with her own lips in an excruciatingly gentle caress.
“I’m hungry.” She whispered against the padded softness. “And, any minute now, George and Mildred are going to break down that door.”
The meal hadn’t quite spoiled. They were able to save the crayfish from drying up completely and the salads were still crisp and fresh. They ate with gusto, sipping the chilled wine. They talked.
“I need to tell you something.” Storm started. “I haven’t been entirely truthful about my past. The thing is …” Kathryn put up her hand to halt the confidences.
“Wait, Storm. There’s something you need to know first. I know about your past. Kenny told me the other night, when I discovered the truth about him and David. He told me that a lot of your so-called reputation was a charade. He told me why and I can understand your actions. I wanted to tell you, firstly that I knew and secondly, that tonight would still have happened whether I’d known or not. In fact it would have happened whether it was true or not. I don’t care what you did in the past, Storm. I love you, just the way you are now. My dearest wish is to make this work, between us. I don’t care how many men you’ve made love to.”
“That’s just it, kd.” Storm reached out to Kathryn’s hand. “There haven’t been any men. Not a one – except if you count the fumblings of one boy, when I first made up my mind to lose my virginity. I backed out at the last minute. I just couldn’t go through with it, poor boy. That’s when I made the decision to just pretend, to try to impress my mother with fabrication, a build-up of a persona that never existed. So, my love, tonight was a first in all ways.”
Kathryn was speechless, never dreaming that Storm had no experience at all, of love and love-making. Storm smiled at the expressions that flitted across Kathryn’s face.
“I’m a natural, don’t you think.” This broke the spell and they laughed together, knowing they would talk in depth later. Storm first wanted to know how Kathryn had found out about David and Kenny. Kathryn recounted the story, making it seem funny, laughing at her own over-reactions. She also sheepishly admitted that she’d lied about herself and Jude being lovers.
“I could never have started anything with Jude, feeling the way I did about you.” Storm’s delighted laugh rang out.
“I’m so bloody glad about that! You don’t know the images that have been going around inside my head.”
“I’m sorry. I truly didn’t mean to hurt you. It was just a defence mechanism.” Kathryn laughed ruefully. “One that didn’t work, I might add. I never want to see you hurt, my love.”
This reminded her once more of her fears for Storm’s safety and she brought up the subject of the stalker.
“Damn!” Storm’s reaction was genuine. “I meant to go on Friday but rehearsal went on so long, I forgot. I promise, promise, promise that I’ll go to the cops on Monday. Don’t be mad, pleeease, kd.” The little-girl, pleading look worked only too well and, after her gruff instruction of “Well, make sure you do, young lady.” the two lovers changed to lighter subjects.
Storm almost let slip about the surprise party on the following night when Kathryn expressed regret that she wouldn’t be able to see her that night. Storm retrieved the situation after letting on that she knew it was Kathryn’s birthday on the following day.
“Kenny told me that he couldn’t see David after the show because Jon and Jen were putting on a birthday dinner for you and David was invited. Anyway, I will be seeing you on your birthday.” She laughed at Kathryn’s puzzled expression. “Well, you’re not going to kick me out tonight, are you? I promise you, you’d have a hard job.” Kathryn’s brow cleared.
“Of course you can stay, I’d love you to. I just wasn’t sure if you wanted to jump so deep, first time in the water – so to speak.” Storm’s expression was answer enough.
They showered and went to bed, spending the night learning about each other, discovering likes and dislikes. Following the contours of the other’s body, like a blind person learning the layout of a new room. They slept intermittently until just before dawn, when they both fell into a dreamless, contented sleep, each secure in the presence of their lover.
Kathryn woke first, instantly aware of the extra presence in bed. Mildred was in her normal position, next to Kathryn’s head on the pillow and George had somehow managed in the night to find a spot to curl up in, between the two slumbering women. Kathryn lifted her head and looked at the clock. It was after half past eight and she felt rested after a good four hours sleep. She could feel Storm’s warmth behind her and she felt the weight of one arm as it rested on her ribcage, the palm of the hand lying loosely against her left breast. Kathryn remembered the position they were in when they’d finally decided to try to capture some sleep. The hand had been warm against her bare breast, stroking and fondling. She had felt the hold loosen as Storm was the first to succumb to the tiredness within them both. They had slept like that, without moving, for four hours and Kathryn only rued the fact that she’d slept through it all!
The man awoke early on Sunday morning, knowing that the day had finally arrived. That this very night, he would be getting from Storm what was rightfully his, what he should have got a long time ago. He’d planned it in detail around the happenings of the evening’s celebrations. He knew all about the surprise party, of course. He’d received his verbal invitation, given in person by Jonathon. He wouldn’t be going to the party — and neither would Storm.
He felt the ache of excitement, deep in his gut. He lay back in bed and went over the plan once more, looking for possible things that could go wrong. He’d waited too long for this night. Nothing and no-one would get in his way.
Kathryn placed her coffee cup on the little place mat with a satisfied sigh. The meal had been delicious, well up to Jen’s normal high standards. She had arrived with David at Jen and Jon’s house feeling a little apprehensive about the evening. She’d told David that she would be telling the couple the truth about herself. He’d been fully supportive as usual and, even though she told him she wouldn’t be ‘outing’ him, he’d said not to worry, that they’d see how things panned out.
Not wanting to draw out the agony, Kathryn told them in her straightforward, blunt way.
“Jon, Jen. There’s something about me that you don’t know and I feel I need to tell you. Obviously I hope it won’t affect our friendship.” She drew a deep breath as she looked from one to the other.
“I’m gay. Always have been, always will be.”
There had been silence, then Jon’s deep voice resounded.
“Thank God for that! I thought it was just me you didn’t want when I proposed!” That, of course, broke the ice as they all broke into laughter. Jen leaned across the table and rested her hand on Kathryn’s, assuring her that it would make absolutely no difference whatever to their friendship.
“As if it could.” Jen said quietly. Kathryn felt a weight she didn’t even know she had, lift off her shoulders.
They talked at length about the generalities of Kathryn’s news and, when Jon said to David that presumably he already knew, David decided to volunteer the truth about himself, receiving the same acceptance from his hosts.
“Now I feel silly.” Jen grimaced. “I’ve been imagining something between the two of you. In fact I had high hopes of an early wedding. Are you sure you’re ……? They all laughed. Kathryn glanced at the clock and saw it was only just after 9 p.m. There was still time to tell them about the specifics of her life changes, about Storm.
Jon also glanced at the clock, knowing they still had time to sit over a quiet drink before the hordes arrived sometime after 9.30 p.m. He had been totally surprised by Kathryn’s revelations, never having had an idea. Now, however, he was looking back over their nearly four years of friendship and could see the little clues that he’d been too obtuse to recognise at the time. He came back to the present when he heard Kathryn say that there was now someone special. Suddenly it came in a flash to Jon, who that someone was. He could visualise expressions on Kathryn’s face that had baffled him at the time. He knew now that they were the same expressions that Jen often wore when she looked at him. He’d seen them on Kathryn’s face when she’d looked at….
“Storm.” The name was spoken in unison by Kathryn and Jon. Kathryn looked at her friend in surprise. “You knew?’ Jon had the grace to look sheepish.
“No, I didn’t know. It just came to me at that moment. How could I be so blind?”
“Hey, Jon. We didn’t know ourselves until just recently. Well, that’s not quite true. I think we’ve both known it for months but we’ve only admitted it to each other quite recently.” She blushed. “Well, last night actually.” There were some good-humoured ribald comments from the two men and a far-away dreamy expression on Jen’s face as she thought about the romance of it all.
When the laugher and rude remarks were finished, Jen asked some pertinent questions.
“So Storm was, or rather is, gay as well? How long has she known? Are you going to tell everybody?”
Kathryn’s face became serious as she answered.
“I don’t really want to tell any of Storm’s secrets. Suffice to say that I wrongly pre-judged her and believed the false reputation that she had allowed to build. She only realised that it was women she was attracted to when she met me.” Another rare blush from Kathryn but she spoke with pride. “Storm hadn’t been able to understand herself until we met and she allowed the attraction to develop. God knows how many others she’s repressed.”
“Well it seems like it was meant to be but how are you going to handle it? Are you going to come out completely? Obviously you know we’ll be supporting you.” Jen asked again.
“I’m not sure. We’ll have to see how it goes. I wanted to tell my close friends but I don’t think it’s necessary to broadcast it to everyone. I don’t want it to impact on my business and it’s probably not a good idea for Storm to be openly gay to the public.. We wouldn’t want to exactly hide it and I’d never deny it but we can try to be circumspect.
David tapped the table with his glass and, with blue eyes twinkling, he announced.
“If it’s a night for making pronouncements, I’d like to add to it. I’ve told Jon already of course but – I’m coming back to Australia to live – and choosing Perth as my base.” Kathryn and Jen both showed their pleasure at this news and Kathryn leaned across to her friend and whispered.
“I know a certain someone who’ll be over the moon with that news.” David smiled back sheepishly and whispered back for the listening audience. “He’s the reason it’s happening.”
The band’s performance that Sunday evening was as polished as ever. Storm could barely remember the days of the Stormtroopers. When the last notes of the last song had died down and the band had accepted the plaudits from the crowd, there was a little more urgency in the packing away of equipment as everyone wanted to get to Jon’s house as soon as they could.
The evening was chilly and the patrons didn’t linger in the beer garden. Alan Mills, the assistant manager, was in charge of overseeing that the equipment was put away correctly in the storeroom and, as usual, Storm did her fair share. As she carried the last few items through the dimly lit back stage area to the store room, her mind was firmly fixed on Kathryn. She wanted to get to the party a little behind everyone else, to give Kathryn the chance to receive all the well wishes from all her friends first. She’d decided to grab a lift from whoever was last to leave and had told Kenny when she’d recounted to him the success of the previous evening, without going into detail.
She half turned as she thought she heard footsteps behind her but couldn’t see anyone in the gloom. She pushed her shoulder to the storeroom door, which swung easily open and looked for space to put her last armful. The slight click of the door barely registered as her thoughts veered towards what she had planned for the latter part of the night, when she and Kathryn would be alone.
It was only when Storm pulled at the door that she realised that the lock had clicked into place.
“Damn!” she muttered and banged on the solid door. “Hey guys! Come and unlock this door, will you?” She banged on it again with the sinking feeling that the noise she was making wouldn’t be heard from in front of the stage area. She listened again in mounting frustration for an indication she’d been heard. There was none.
“She said she’d cadge a lift from someone. She said for us to head off.” Kenny answered Cloud’s question.
“I’ll be here for a little while longer. I’ll bring her along. Just locking up behind you now and then we’ll be right there.” Alan had overheard the question and answer and offered his services. He saw the band out, said goodnight to the bouncers and threw the bolts on the door. He went back to his office whistling “All night with me. D’ya feel like stayin’ all night with me….”
When Alan had turned off the computer in his office, he turned to the back rooms and heard the ‘thump, thump’ on the storeroom door. He clicked the lock and opened it.
“Oh, thank goodness!” Storm exhaled. “I thought everyone had gone.”
“What happened? How did you manage to get locked in?” Alan wanted to know.
“God knows. Someone must have somehow released the catch earlier and, when it shut behind me, it locked. Is there anyone left? I need a lift to Jon’s.”
“Yeah, that’s OK. I can take you. I’m all finished here.” He smiled and Storm had a flashback of the same smile but the face wasn’t quite the same. Puzzled she asked him.
“I know you from somewhere, don’t I?” Alan’s smile slipped and he gave a quick frown.
“Yes. I thought you’d have remembered by now.” He sounded disgruntled.
“Oh I will. Don’t tell me. I’m sure it’ll come back soon.” Alan didn’t reply, just turned on his heel and led the way out.
The two of them exited through a side door directly into the nearly empty car park and walked to where Alan’s car was parked. Mike, the younger of the bouncers, was standing close to it, looking down. He glanced up at the approaching figures, a cheerful grin on his normally taciturn face.
“Got a bit of a problem, mate. I think somebody doesn’t like you. Either that, or it’s somebody’s idea of a joke.” He pointed to the rear tyres of the car, both of which were totally flat. “Been chatting to old Johnno over there and just noticed them. In the RAC are you?”
Storm saw the anger on Alan’s face and thought of the fury she’d feel if it’d happened to her. She glanced at her watch, worried about the time she was spending away from Kathryn. Mike saw the glance and guessed aloud that she wouldn’t want to hang around for an hour or so waiting for help.
“I’m going to the party.” He spoke to Alan. “D’you want me to take Storm? Save you both being real late.” The assistant manager was punching numbers on his mobile, his face a picture of frustration. He was about to snap at Mike when Storm spoke.
“That’d be great. You don’t mind do you, Alan? I promise I’ll remember by the next time I see you.”
“OK. That’d decided then.” Mike hurried Storm. “The car’s parked over there. Let’s get a wriggle on.” Mike drove off and, as they passed Alan, Storm wondered at the look of intense frustration on his face. It seemed a little overdone for the situation.
Storm and Mike were quiet on the first stretch of the drive along Guildford Road towards the distant hills. Storm’s mind was on Alan. Where did she know him from? It nibbled on the fringes of her mind but it was as if it was pushing the memory away. He’d seemed very put out that she didn’t remember. She got fleeting glimpses of a face, not his exactly, coming closer, of fingers fumbling with her clothes but she just couldn’t put it all together.
“I have to pick up something for Jonathon from my flat. It’s on the way.” Storm’s musings were interrupted by Mike.
“That’s fine.” Storm’s mind was elsewhere, grasping at the quick flashes of a face – similar but not quite the same as Alan’s.
Mike indicated to turn right off the highway and Storm fleetingly registered that they were in Bassendean. He took a smaller street to the left and pulled up in front of some units. He interrupted her thought processes once again.
“Could you give me a hand? There are a couple of boxes. It’ll get us there quicker.” Storm quickly agreed, needing to see her lover’s face as soon as possible. As she climbed the steps to the first floor unit, she mentally clicked her fingers together – ‘Of course!’ That’s why she hadn’t been able to remember. He was so much younger then. She got a clear picture of Alan – she hadn’t even known his proper name then, she only knew him as Millsy. The face that she was picturing was illuminated by the headlights of an oncoming car. They’d been in the back seat of his old car. She’d agreed to have sex with him and he was groping at the skin beneath her sweater. The sheen of sweat on his young face showed his mounting excitement and his fumblings showed his inexperience. His lips had pressed on hers and she’d felt his rough chin scratching her face. As he’d plunged his tongue into her mouth, she’d realised that she couldn’t go through with it. She’d pushed him off, pulling down her sweater, grasping for the door handle. She’d yanked it open and jumped out, hearing him calling for her as she turned the corner.
‘No wonder he’d been put out at my not remembering, poor guy.’ Storm thought as she walked through the doorway into Mike’s unit, her face flushed with shame and embarrassment. She vowed to herself that she would talk to him the following day and apologise. He seemed a really nice man and she hoped he’d forgive her. Maybe she’d even confide in him about herself and Kathryn, it might make it easier for him to understand.
“Not good enough for you, was I?” Storm heard the words and was confused – still thinking about Alan. “Don’t pretend you don’t remember. Turned your nose up at me, you did. You fuckin’ won’t this time.” Storm turned to Mike and saw that his face was a mask of a mixture of hatred and lust. Storm backed away in surprise and felt a shaft of fear. She looked around. How had she got here? What was it all about? Mike took a step back and laughed at Storm’s fear – a nasty sound. He juggled the key to the deadlock in his hand. “This time it’s my turn. This time you won’t fuckin’ say no.
Kathryn had been enjoying a leisurely after dinner brandy with Jenny and Jonathon in the warm, cosy lounge when the front door bell rang. She’d looked at her watch.
“Who’s this, so late in the evening?” Jenny had excused herself to answer the door and had arrived back, a dozen or so friends in her wake.
“Happy Birthday!” “Surprise, surprise!” Kathryn had certainly had a surprise and spent the next half hour or so being kissed, hugged and being wished a happy birthday. When they’d all settled with drinks and the nibbles that had mysteriously appeared from Jenny’s kitchen, Kathryn looked in vain for Storm.
“Alan’s bringing her. They shouldn’t be long.” Kenny interpreted Kathryn’s unspoken words. “I think she wanted all the rabble to settle in before she wished you her own happy birthday.” Kathryn smiled in anticipation.
Mutual friends of herself and the Reece’s arrived and Kathryn was caught up in the swing of the party. She saw David and Kenny close together and guessed that the subject of their discussion was about the earlier dinner conversation and whether David had told Jon and Jenny. The look on Kenny’s face revealed his obvious pleasure at the outcome. ‘Poor boy.’ Thought Kathryn sympathetically. ‘He must be fed up living a lie all this time and will be glad to just be himself.’
Cloud tapped Kathryn on the shoulder.
“I’d like you to meet a friend of mine, Kathryn.” Kathryn turned and saw Cloud’s arm around the shoulders of a stunning woman. “Shelley. This is our manager, Kathryn. Kathryn, I’d like you to meet Shelley, an old school friend.” Shelley chuckled, “Not so much a friend, then. More of a nuisance I’m afraid. I used to tag along behind my brother Kevin and Cloud and want to do everything they did. I admit I was a real pain. I don’t know why Cloud even talks to me now.” Her laughing eyes looked up into Cloud’s and Kathryn saw the smitten look in his face, his expression showing his continuing surprise that his mate Kev’s sister ‘Shell’ had grown up into such a perfect woman. Kathryn wondered if Cloud had finally met the woman of his dreams.
“Lovely to meet you Shelley. Thanks for coming and sharing this lovely surprise. Cloud, get Shelley a drink and a plate of food.” She chastised the brother of the woman she loved. “Did you go to the club tonight?” Kathryn asked Shelley. “Was it a good performance?” She queried, in response to the lovely woman’s nod. Shelley’s eyes were shining.
“Yes, it was terrific as always. Storm is just so good. It’s the third time I’ve seen them perform and Storm puts so much feeling into the songs. Of course Cloud’s always excellent as well. When do you think the album will be out? I’m sure it’ll be a huge hit.”
Kathryn was charmed by this beautiful woman’s artlessness and ingenuous enthusiasm.
“Hopefully there’ll be a lot of music lovers that will agree with you. The album’s due to be released in two to three weeks. Keep telling all your friends how good they are.” Kathryn laughed as Cloud came back to claim his old friend, explaining that they couldn’t stay long so they’d just have a bite to eat and be off.
“Thanks again for coming. Hope to meet you again soon, Shelley.”
After a surreptitious look at her watch, Kathryn tried to traverse the crowd to reach the door, hoping to look outside to see if Storm was arriving. Her palms were damp with the anticipation of seeing her lover. She heard a car pull up and eagerly escaped outside to meet it. She saw Alan step out of the car, alone.
Storm still couldn’t remember the incident, even after Mike had told her all about her walking out on him. She didn’t doubt for one minute that it had happened. After all, she’d built her reputation on men thinking that they were the only ones to have missed out.
‘What have I done?’ she asked herself in the beginnings of panic.
“The phone calls?” Mike nodded. “And you followed me.” Another nod from the man. Storm tried to gather her wits. She had to let someone know she was there but, as she looked at his massive arms, she knew she had to do it without him knowing. A scream could only result in him incapacitating her. Her mind dragged at her wandering reason. ‘Who? How?’ Kathryn’s face was the first to come to mind. ‘She’ll be getting really worried. I must let her know but how can I tell her?’
Storm’s thoughts were muddled. She needed time to gather her wits and get her thoughts into some kind of cohesion. Firstly she had to buy time. She asked Mike for a drink of water. Mike’s fluctuating moods swung around once more to the genial.
“Sure. You ask for something, you get it.” He winked at her as he turned to walk out of the room, tossing the key in the air and catching it. “No point in trying to get out though. This here baby is the only key.” She heard him laughing from the kitchen.
‘OK. So, where am I? There must be an address somewhere.’ Storm prowled the room, looking for something, anything that might have an address on it – an envelope or a bill maybe. She struck lucky on the dresser. Lying under an old newspaper was an empty envelope. She quickly memorised the address. Unit 5, 17 Marlboro Rd, Bassendean. Her mind raced but the plan formed slowly, methodically. Could it work? How could she carry it out?
Mike walked back into the room with a tall glass of water in hand. Storm changed tack.
“You know, I do remember that night now, Mikey. I promise it was nothing to do with you. I was feeling really bad that night – honest.” Mike smiled, a sly look in his eyes.
“Good, then you’ll do it with me tonight then, won’t you.” It was a statement, not a question. Storm swallowed.
“Yes, I probably will – but we have to go slowly, you know. You do want me to enjoy it, don’t you Mike?” Her reluctant hand stroked his beefy army. The man in front of her was pleased, she could see. He reached for her.
“Hold on a minute though, Mike.” She backed off a little but kept her hand on his arm. “They’re going to miss me at the party. They’ll be worried. What happens when Alan arrives without me and tells them that I left with you?” Mike frowned and thought for a while. Storm’s spirits lifted just a little before they were struck down again. He shook his head.
“They’ll know you’re with me. They know you love to fuck. They’ll guess we’re fucking right about now. And they won’t be wrong, will they baby. Anyway,” a smug look flitted across his face, “even if they looked for you at my place, they’d never find you. I didn’t give my real address to that bastard you know.”
Storm decided it was time to set her plan in motion, even though the last details were only just falling into place. She knew she couldn’t afford to leave it any longer. She just hoped that Kathryn and herself were on as good a wavelength as she thought they were.
“Yes, they probably would think that. After all, they do know me, don’t they.” She forced a laugh. “Problem is, that I was supposed to give Kathryn some information tonight. It’s absolutely imperative that she gets it and if I don’t let her know, she’ll move heaven and earth to find me. You know what she’s like, don’t you?”
The big man pictured Kathryn and could well believe that the bitch could cause problems. He’d always been a little in awe of her obvious power. Consequently he hated her with a vengeance.
“What’s this important information then?” Storm replied that she’d write it down so he could see what she was going to read out. He agreed to her writing it down and said that if he thought it was OK, she’d be able to ring Jon’s house and read it out. His face turned ugly as he grabbed her arm, his fingers biting in to the fleshy part of her arm.
“But if you say one word that’s not on the fuckin’ paper, you won’t be leaving here tonight.” Storm could well believe him as she felt the strength in his hands.
“I promise, Mike. I promise.” She gasped.
Storm thought carefully, then wrote down the details. Mike frowned as he read the words.
“What’s it bloody mean? Why does she need this tonight?”
“God knows.” Storm made her tone sarcastic. “Who knows what the woman wants and why.” She held her breath as Mike looked for any hidden meaning or message. She quickly continued. “It’s just some data on old songs, Mikey. Really old songs. I had to find out by today because she needs the info by tomorrow morning first thing. Look. That’s all it is – songs, singers and what the highest position was that they got to on the British charts.
Mike nodded and picked up the phone, handing it to Storm. He kept a tight grip on her arm as she dialled and his other hand brushed her throat in warning as she was connected. Storm took a deep breath and tried to keep her voice steady as an unknown voice answered.
“Oh hi. Could I speak to Kate please?” She prayed that Kathryn was close by. Her heart plummeted as the voice told her that Kathryn was outside, greeting a late comer. He offered to take a message. Mike’s hand tightened on Storm’s throat and he whispered, “Leave the friggin’ message!” Storm asked the man if he had pen and paper handy and, when he confirmed he did, she started.
“OK. Make it out to Kate…….”
Storm prayed that Kathryn would understand.
As Kathryn walked through the door, followed by Alan, she was concerned. When she’d asked Alan where Storm was, he’d been surprised that she wasn’t already there. He’d told her that Storm had left with Mike Richards, the bouncer, a good thirty minutes before he’d managed to get away, himself. “Where is she?’ Kathryn worried.
“Kathryn!” The raised voice was that of Tom, a friend of Jon’s, whom she knew slightly – more so his wife. “I’ve got a phone message for you.” He continued as he got closer. “Someone called ‘Storm’ rang.” Kathryn’s heart raced. What had happened? Had there been an accident? She hurriedly closed the gap between herself and the messenger.
“What did she say?” she demanded.
“Hang on _ I wrote it down. Here.” Kathryn almost snatched the note. The first think she saw was the words ‘for Kate’.
“Kate?” Kathryn murmured. Tom overheard and affirmed that Storm had twice said to give it to Kate.
Kathryn frowned, something was wrong. It was almost as if Storm was trying to warn her about something. She quickly read the message, then read it again. It didn’t make any sense. Why leave a message like this when she must have known Kathryn would be worried about her absence. It was cryptic, almost like their ongoing game. Kathryn stiffened – it was like their game. For some reason Storm was giving her clues. For what? It must be for where she is, Kathryn reasoned to herself. She remembered the anonymous phone calls and the hints that Storm was being stalked. Her blood froze.
Kathryn spun around and hurried through the lounge, ignoring the puzzled look from Tom. She interrupted Alan’s conversation with Jonathon.
“I need to talk to you both now.” She caught David’s eye and gestured to him to follow them. She led the way into the kitchen where a busy Jenny was preparing more snacks. Kenny followed them in.
“Alan. What exactly happened after everyone else left the hotel?” Alan recounted the story of finding Storm locked in the storeroom.
“How?” Kathryn jumped in.
“Actually I’ve got no idea.” Alan was perplexed. “It’s never happened before. The catch is always on so it can’t lock.”
“Damn. It sounds like it was planned. OK, what happened next?”
“We went out through the side door and Mike was standing near the car.” Jenny spoke up.
” Mike Richards, one of the bouncers. Storm knew him.” Kenny nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, we’ve seen him around a fair bit.”
“Yes but what happened?” Kathryn’s voice was sharp.
“Mike said that he’d just noticed the two flat tyres. He laughed and reckoned that somebody didn’t like me. I was furious. Who the hell would do that? I’ve never hurt anybody. Bastards!” Alan was still furious.
“Whose idea was it for Storm to go with Mike?” Kathryn was persistent. Alan thought about it and remembered that it was Mike.
“He offered. She jumped at it. I was a bit pissed off as I’d wanted to have a talk with Storm and this would’ve been a good opportunity.” He looked a little sheepish but Kathryn was like a bulldog, ignoring the undertone in his voice.
“So they got in the car – and that was, what? An hour and a half ago?” She opened the note and spread it out. “This message came from her five minutes ago. She’s in trouble and she’s trying to tell me.”
The men looked over her shoulder to read the note.
“But it doesn’t make any sense. Why would she be talking about old songs?” David exclaimed.
“Buggered if I know what it means.” Jon agreed.
“Oh I know how she’s trying to tell me. I’ve just got to figure out what she’s trying to tell me.”
“Do we ring the police?” Jenny, as ever, was practical.
“And tell them what?” Jonathon replied. “She’s late for a party. She’s with a guy.” He looked apologetically at Kathryn. “And she’s got one hell of a reputation.”
Kenny nodded but Kathryn was busy with the note. Alan spoke reluctantly.
“Well, couldn’t it be that she and him…..?”
“Look here.” Kathryn ignored the suggestion and captured their attention. “Firstly she makes a point in saying the message is for Kate. She never calls me Kate, hates it. That in itself is a warning to me. Now, look at the message.
‘The Nashville Teen’s hit song ‘Tobacco Rd’ got to number 5 on the charts.
Rolf Harris’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ only managed number 17′.
I double checked with Tom and that was exactly what she said.”
The others still looked baffled but Kathryn was beginning to see a pattern.
“Firstly – Rolf Harris is known as ‘the boy from Bassendean’. Bassendean is on the way here. I’m sure Storm wouldn’t have let him trick her into taking her in an entirely different direction so, if he lives in Bassendean, that would make sense. God knows how the bastard got her there but I’m sure Storm is trying to give me the address and I’ll bet he was there when she left the message so she had to disguise it.” The men were still bewildered but Jenny nodded in encouragement.
“OK. Let’s start with Bassendean.” Kathryn continued, unmindful of her audience. “What’s the road? Tobacco Rd. What could she mean? Jonathon. Any ideas?” Jonathon shrugged.
“Winfield? Benson and Hedges? Peter Stuyvescent? Marlboro?” He was struggling. Kenny joined in.
“Dunhill? Alpine?” Jon went off to get a street directory.
“Keep thinking, Kathryn.” His instruction was superfluous.
“We’ve got The Nashville Teens.” She thought for a while. “No, I don’t think their name means anything. No, it’ll have to be the numbers – five and seventeen that are important. Why two numbers though. Could it be that it’s a unit? Yes, if it’s an upstairs unit, that would fit with ‘The Stairway to Heaven’ bit rather than one of his other songs, like ‘Tie me Kangaroo down’.”
David and Jenny were looking doubtful.
“How would she expect you to work that out?” David was puzzled. Kenny answered for Kathryn.
“She was always playing games with songs. She played them with you as well didn’t she?” He looked at Kathryn who nodded abstractedly. “She’d know you’d try to work out the puzzle once you’d got her clue about the ‘Kate’ bit.” He looked up as Jonathon returned, book in hand, open at the street names. He was excited.
“There’s a Marlboro Rd in Bassendean. Look.”
“It’s only a small street.” Jenny pointed out.
“Yes but look – there’s a number 22 there.” Kenny pointed to a tiny number, shown on the street in the map. “If there’s a 22, there must be a 17.”
Kathryn was moving to the door.
I’m going. Anyone else?” Jonathon thumped his head in self recrimination, as he thought of something.
“Hold on. Let me look in the files in the computer. It’ll have his address there.” Kathryn shook her head.
“No. This has been planned for months – well before he got this job. The stalking has been going on for much longer than that. He wouldn’t have given his real address, Jon, I’d bet on it.”
“Wait up then. Come in my car, Kathryn. You two come along.” Jon spoke to Kenny and David, then turned to Jenny. “Check the PC anyway, love and, if his address is Bassendean, give me a call on the mobile.” He turned lastly to Alan. “I’ll leave you to inform the police, as you were the last person to see Storm. I’m sure they won’t do anything but at least let them know. Give our apologies to everyone.” He hurried to catch up with Kathryn.
Storm was playing for time. She calculated that it would take her would-be rescuers about fifteen minutes to drive from Middle Swan to Bassendean…..and that was only after Kathryn had worked out the answer to the puzzle. Please let Kathryn work it out.
“Hey! How about a drink then, if we’re going to get cosy and make a night of it?” She was trying to find ways of delaying Mike’s first move. She spent some time wondering whether to have a beer or a mixed drink. She decided on a scotch and dry.
“No dry? Well, let me see what you’ve got out there, Mikey boy.” He trailed her into the kitchen, an imposing figure. Storm’s heart was racing and her hand trembled as she looked for a mixer to go with her unwanted scotch.
“How about a cup of tea?” She tried to infuse some enthusiasm into the request but Mike was having none of the stalling tactics.
“Got none. No coffee, no milk. Scotch it is. Have water with it.”
“What about ice?”
“Jeez! I think there’s some in the fridge. Hurry up will ya.”
As Storm found the ice in the freezer and put a couple of the cubes in her glass, she saw Mike shrug off his jacket, revealing large sweat stains under his arms. She looked around for some protective weapon, discounting the knives in the kitchen drawer, a knife could easily be turned back on herself. Her vivid imagination could picture the feel of the cold steel sliding through her own flesh. She shook her head to clear away the stark picture.
Storm was still leaning weakly against the sink when she felt hard arms circling her waist.
“Come on, babe, I need it now.” His voice was husky with desire as he pulled her away from the sink and effortlessly swung her into his arms. He pushed open a door revealing an untidy bedroom and Storm shuddered as he put her down on the obviously dirty bedding. She made the decision that she’d sell herself dearly. He wouldn’t get anything easily – she determined to fight and knew she had to start immediately. As she lay sprawled on the bed, she linked her hands together and swung a two-fisted backhand, aimed straight at his face. She felt the impact on the back of one hand as it connected with his cheek and she moaned a little as the pain shot up her arm. His head snapped to his right and he grunted with the unexpected pain. Storm drew in a big breath and opened her mouth to shout for help but felt his huge hand slam into her face muffling the shout. She bit down on the soft, fleshy palm and Mike quickly removed his hand before he back-handed her across the face.
“Bitch! You’ll pay for that!” Storm tried to shake the buzzing in her head, tasting the metallic taste of blood in her mouth. She felt something soft being pushed into her mouth and she was thrown over onto her stomach as some unknown material was dragged across her face and tied at the back. She struggled to breathe through her nose until the material was lowered, clearing the airway.
She was thrown onto her back once more as her arms were gripped in the vice of his hands and Mike straddled her struggling body. The jacket she was wearing was dragged, forcibly, from her shoulders and dragged halfway down her arms, effectively trapping her arms with the strong cotton material.
Storm felt the fingers at her belt, undoing it, dragging the jeans down her thighs. She tried to kick out at the heavy body that covered her own, trying to connect with his groin, hoping to incapacitate him but she couldn’t manage it. She felt a stinging blow as his open hand connected once more to the side of her face, then felt the pressure of fingers and thumb on her throat. She smelled the beer on his breath as he hissed at her to stop fighting him – or take the consequences, his hand tightening its grip on her aching throat. His other hand ripped off her jeans, dragging off shoes in the process. A bunched fist grabbed hold of her panties and she whimpered in pain as they were ripped from her, along with some hairs that were torn from her pubis.
She could smell the acrid odour coming off his body as his excitement rose. The pressure on her throat increased still more as he used the heel of one foot to drag apart her legs, as his free hand released the fastenings of his own pants and slipped them down over his hips. Storm saw his eyes glaze as he held himself, stroking up and down. He lowered his body onto that of his unwilling victim and his aim was arrow straight. Storm screamed inwardly as she threw her head to one side, trying to break the stranglehold of his fingers.
“Hurry, Jon.” Kathryn urged. Jonathon touched her knee.
“We have to get there safely. For Storm’s sake. We’ll be no use to her if we get into an accident.” Jon’s voice was soothing. He added in an undertone, “And I do hope you’re right with the guesswork. We’ll be up shit creek if your guess is completely wrong.”
Kathryn shuddered at the thought but she recognised the sense in Jon’s reasoning, even as she chafed at the time it was taking to get to Storm and worried again at what might be happening to her lover. She looked yet again at her watch. She moaned.
“Oh God! It’s been 30 minutes since she rang. Anything could have happened by now.”
Jonathon sped away as the lights turned green, David’s car right behind them. Jonathon spoke with more urgency.
“OK, it’s next left, then first right. It should be about the ninth building on the left. Look out for numbers.” He instructed his agitated passenger. They pulled up in front of a small block of units.
“It must be it!” Kathryn exulted, as she jumped from the car. “Look, it’s units – there’s 6 of them. Where the hell is number five?” Jonathon held her arm.
“Wait for the boys to join us. We can’t do anything but knock on the door, you know. It’s not the movies. We can’t go shoulder charging the door down.” Kathryn looked frustrated.
“Why the hell not? He may be hurting her.” David and Kenny had joined them. Jonathon spoke to them all.
“He’s not going to hurt her if he knows we’re waiting for him outside. He can’t be that stupid. Come on – let’s go.” They ran up the steps to where the number ‘5’ was displayed outside a door.
Jonathon rapped hard on the door. They heard a crash and a muffled grunt from within the unit. Jonathon shouted out.
“Storm! We’re here. Mike – open this door right now!” There were noises from inside, footsteps moving. Jonathon cracked his fist against the door once more. “Mike, I’ll give you five seconds to open this door or we’ll break it down!” Even in the drama of the moment, David had time to raise his eyebrows at the turnaround in Jon’s attitude but he nodded his agreement.
They heard a key turn in the lock and Jonathon pushed at the door just as the weight of a heavy body slammed into it, pushing it back into his face. The four worried friends on the outside of the door leaned their weight against it and it slowly opened against the two bodies that were lying inside, grappling with one another. Jonathon and Kenny grabbed a furious Mike, while Kathryn threw herself to the floor next to Storm, taking in the gag, the naked legs and glimpsing the marks and bruises that were starting on the young girl’s face, throat and arms.
“Oh my God, my love, we’re here, we’re here. He can’t hurt you any more.” She released the rag from round her lover’s face and Storm spat out the bloodied ball of cloth from inside her mouth, almost gagging with revulsion.
Mike was struggling in the big bear-hug that Jonathon had on him but to no avail. His jeans were around his ankles and his underpants had been half pulled up, his limp member hanging over the waistband of them. Blood was flowing freely from the back of his head and one eye was closed from the swelling in his cheek.
David gently pushed Kathryn aside and threw his jacket over Storm’s naked lower half. Kenny was already on the phone to the police. Storm reached for Kathryn’s hand.
“I knew you’d come.” It was a hoarse whisper against the agony of her bruised throat. “I tried to hold him off….” Kathryn gave a tiny whimper as she pressed her lips to Storm’s uninjured cheek.
“Oh my darling. I’m sorry, so sorry, we couldn’t get here in time to stop him. We’ll get through this, my love. We can and we will.” Storm shook her head in denial.
“No, my love, you got here just in time.” She pulled herself into a seated position as she struggled to explain. “There he was, over me and ready to pull the trigger, so to speak. I felt his other hand relax a little on my throat as he anticipated entering me. I threw my head to the side to escape the fingers and bucked as hard as I could. He fell off the bed and I think he hit his head on the bedside table. I heard the knock on the door at that moment. I jumped off the bed and saw his keys on the floor. They must have dropped out of his pocket. I ran to the door and only just got the key turned before he rugby-tackled me. Thank God his pants had fallen to his knees which stopped him running.”
The police arrived within minutes and Kathryn sat with Storm, now wrapped in a sheet, while she briefly told them what had happened. Apparently, Alan had been very convincing on the phone to them earlier, especially about the solving of the puzzle and a police car had been dispatched to check out the address. Consequently they were already en route when the second call came in.
Once the police had read Mike his rights and escorted him to the Midland police station, the remaining constable organised for them all to report to the station on the following day to give their statements. Storm had assured them that she hadn’t been raped but they wanted her to be checked over and photographs taken for forensic evidence. Kathryn promised to take Storm straight to the hospital and organised for Jonathon to drop them off there.
“I’ll take her to my house when we’re through. It’s OK, we’ll catch a taxi.” Kathryn reassured the men, needing Storm to herself for a time, while she gloried in the fact that the woman she loved was relatively unhurt.
It was a long night of treatment and waiting and police photographs but, eventually, Kathryn and Storm arrived back at Kathryn’s house to a welcome from an ecstatic George and a yawning Mildred. Storm begged a shower and Kathryn understood the girl’s need to wash off all remains of the thug who had hurt her.
The sky was lightening when Storm emerged from Kathryn’s ensuite. Kathryn was sitting on the edge of the bed, re-living all that had happened that night. Storm sat down beside her and took her hand, knowing what was going on in the older woman’s mind.
“It’s alright.” She soothed. “It’s all over now. They said they’d be able to get him for grievous bodily harm, abduction and attempted rape. He won’t be out for a long, long time.” Storm stroked her partner’s cheek. “We’re together now, my love and that’s the way I want it to stay. Yes?” She cocked her head to one side and Kathryn folded her into her arms, being careful not to hurt the bruised and battered body that was still beautiful enough to rouse feelings of need within her.
“Yes, my love. Together, forever. I love you, my darling and I want to shout it out to the world. Will you shout it with me.”
“Of course.” Storm sounded as if it was a foregone conclusion and Kathryn chuckled at the confidence of this young woman. She stood and tugged slightly on Storm’s hand as she led her to the window, towards the red glow that was lighting the room. The colours of dawn held them in thrall as they watched the stunning canvas quietly paint itself in the eastern sky. They stood in awe, both wondering what fate would paint on their own particular canvass. Storm lifted Kathryn’s hand to her lips and gently kissed the recently broken finger and spoke lovingly.
“You need someone to look after you and protect you. Can I apply for the job?’ Kathryn smiled into the suddenly smoky eyes of her lover. They turned as one and walked to the bed.